Council’s cash problems revealed

The offices of Longford County Council. Photo: Michelle Ghee. www.gphotos.ie
Cash-strapped Longford County Council was one of 20 local authorities deemed technically insolvent at the end of 2013, a new report has shown.

Cash-strapped Longford County Council was one of 20 local authorities deemed technically insolvent at the end of 2013, a new report has shown.

The local authority ran up deficits of close to €200,000 by the year’s end as economic pressures took hold.

Land banks totalling €7m were said to be in the Council’s possession during that time, even though 597 people were still awaiting local authority housing approval.

The figures were released last week in a report by the Local Government Auditor.

‘An Overview of the Work of the Local Government Auditors’ provides further insight into the various financial strains councils have been increasingly faced with.

In Longford’s case, general revenue balances slipped from €432,000 in 2011 to €196,000 two years later.

Though one of 20 councils classed as being “in the red”, its debts paled in comparison to the harsh realities other local authorities have had to withstand.

They included Westmeath (€1.79m), Donegal and Sligo, the latter of which amassed deficits of €17.7m and €21.7m respectively.

Cavan returned the healthiest figures from all of Longford’s neighbouring counties by recording a surplus of €1.6m.

COMMERCIAL RATES

At the end of 2013, commercial rate arrears racked up by Longford County Council stood at €928,731, returning a percentage collection rate of 82 per cent.

Collection rates in terms of housing rents were more positive, accounting for an 85 per cent retrieval figure.

A more modest arrears total of €712,000 was accrued by the turn of the year after officials raised just over €4m from tenants.

The area in which Longford County Council struggled, like many other local authorities, was in the water services division.

Water rates arrears compiled for the local government auditor showed €1.06m on the Council’s balance sheets up until January 1 2013.

And while arrears fell slightly to €1.015m within the space of 12 months, over a third of ratepayers failed to make any returns at all.

HOUSING LOANS

The final piece of cross-county analysis carried out by the auditor concerned housing loans.

That showed close to €1.5m had been earmarked for collection during 2013.

Nearly €1.1m was accounted for, according to the figures, leaving an overall deficit of €578,449 by the end of December.