Services at risk as €1.3m cut due to low Household Charge returns

Conor Barrins

Reporter:

Conor Barrins

Longford’s County Manager has said councils should not be penalised for low Household Charge returns – after being informed Longford County Council will be hit by a €1.3 million cut to their budget.

Longford’s County Manager has said councils should not be penalised for low Household Charge returns – after being informed Longford County Council will be hit by a €1.3 million cut to their budget.

Speaking at last night’s County Council meeting, Tim Caffrey informed councillors the county’s Local Government Fund allocation was being slashed by €1, 322, 998. This represents a 12 per cent cut to its funding with the Department of the Environment citing the lower than expected uptake of the controversial tax as the reason.

“This is an astounding figure to have cut from your budget seven months into the year. There is no way we can deal with this. We will have to contest this strongly at national level,” he told a visibly shocked chamber.

Mr Caffrey said all expenditure would have to be examined to claw back the deficit, with cuts to services unavoidable.

The Department of the Environment have confirmed similar letters have been sent out to all county managers detailing a reduction of between 5 and 15 per cent in their expected third quarter payment for 2012. The issue is set to be the main point of discussion at a County and City Managers Association meeting taking place today.

Smaller counties such as Longford with a low rates base are expected to suffer the most from these cuts, as they traditionally rely heaviest on the Local Government Fund.

“It is unfair to hit this local authority with such a cut as we have gone overboard in our attempts to collect the Household Charge. Some people are just not paying it, and I don’t think we should be penalised,” Mr Caffrey added.

According to the figures used to compile the cut, just over 53 per cent of households in Longford had paid the charge as of last weekend.

The letter issued to county managers did state final budgets would be reviewed in the fourth quarter of this year in light of the Household Charge compliance at that time, but Councils are being advised to cut their cloth accordingly.

Reacting to the news, Cllr Mae Sexton (Ind) described the cut as the “meanest, most unjust act a minister could ask of a Local Authority seven months into the year. This is an outrageous attack on those who have paid, and those that can’t afford to pay.”