Council’s cutbacks after levy shortfall

Longford’s road and housing network faces drastic cutbacks and libraries may have to be closed for extended periods due to budget shortfalls associated with the controversial household charge.

Longford’s road and housing network faces drastic cutbacks and libraries may have to be closed for extended periods due to budget shortfalls associated with the controversial household charge.

That was the gloomy message outlined by senior county council executives this week as finance officials attempt to withstand a €1.3m cut in its funding from central government.

Longford Co Council has confirmed that as many as seven different areas have already been identified for cost cutting measures.

These include road and housing maintenance, community grants, street cleaning, library services, disabled persons grants alongside possible interruptions to street lighting facilities.

Council bosses said residents across the county were now staring at “inevitable hardship” brought about by the fact 42 per cent or 5,400 households had still not paid the €100 charge.

“To date the household charge has been paid in respect of 7,508 properties in Longford. This represents 58 per cent of the estimated number of properties liable in the county.

“The low level of compliance has very serious implications for Longford Local Authorities,” outlined a strongly worded statement this week.

It’s understood further discussion on the precise areas where cuts are likely to fall will be thrashed out next month when councillors return from their summer recess.

In the meantime, County Manager Tim Caffrey has instructed staff to suspend all discretionary type expenditure except in emergency cases.

“This money is critical to fund services like roads, libraries; open spaces and leisure amenities; planning and development; fire and emergency services; maintenance and cleaning of streets and street lighting – all facilities that benefit everyone in the community,” said Mr Caffrey.

For those likely to bear the brunt of budgetary cuts, the prospect of maintaining services at their current level look bleak.

Maureen Galligan from Abbeylara Active Retirement Group said trips for its senior citizens and even Christmas gatherings could be axed as a consequence of funding restrictions.

“It will affect us,” she said. “It will be that bit more expensive to pay for a bus and then there is our Christmas party. All those things will have to be considered.”

Those feelings were further endorsed by other community groups over the past few days.

Michael Murray, chairperson of Newtowncashel Tidy Towns Association, said committee members were keeping their fingers crossed budgetary reductions would not be overly severe.

“Irrespective of the rights or wrongs of the household tax, it would be most unfortunate if services to the Newtowncashel area would be curtailed as a result,” he said.