Longford County Council agreed a one percent reduction in commercial rates following an unexpected €1m boost from central government funds. In a mirror of what transpired 12 months ago, the local authority budgeted for a hefty cut in their funding, this time 12.5 percent – almost €2m.
However, following intense council lobbying with government officials in the past week, the cut was reduced to 7.26 per cent, which allowed the council to reallocate funds.
As well as the one percent reduction in rates, the council agreed that there would be no increase in water charges or rents.
Speaking at this week's budget meeting, County Mayor Cllr Paul Connell said the County Manager, Tim Caffrey, made a strong case to the department officials, which saw Longford receive an extra €958,978.
Having been told that the cut would be between 12 and 15 percent, Mr Caffrey said that Longford has done well when compared with other local authorities.
The extra €1m in this year's budget allowed the local authority to restore funding to various areas that had been cut, including the community grants.
Having been left out of the initial draft budget for next year, county councillors voted to restore funding of €45,000 to community groups, which is down from the €65,000 spent this year, which in itself was a cut on the €110,000 allocated in the 2010 budget.
However, the community funding comes at a cost to the tourism budget, which has been cut by €11,000 as a result of the changes.
Following a lengthy corporate policy meeting, described by County Manager Tim Caffrey as "robust", a series of recommended adjustments were put to members to allocate the extra funding of €958,978.
Having been told that the cut would be between 12 and 15 percent, he said that Longford has done well when compared with other local authorities.
Barry Lynch, Director of Finance said €100,000 will go towards reducing the council's deficit, which he said is "in the region of €600,000". He proposed that €325,000 would go towards housing maintenance, almost doubling what had been allocated, and the the road maintenance would also be doubled from its previous allocation of €450,000 to €900,000.
Other areas where funding will be increased include library book fund €30,000; Granard Town Council €3,375; Longford Enterprise Development Company (LEDCO) €1,500; Disabled Persons Grants €4,103 and the provision of €47,114 to allow a one percent reduction in rates.
The proposed figure for Community Grants, which had previously been allocated no funds, was €25,000. However, Cllr Mark Casey raised an objection and said the council should look to restore funding to its 2010 level of €65,000. "The community grants is one of the few things where the council can be seen in the community in what they have done," said Cllr Casey.
Following a lengthy debate and agreement from members, the council agreed to cut its tourism promotion budget by €11,000 (to €35,000) and refunds and irrecoverable rates by €10,000.
Cllr Denis Glennon expressed his opposition cutting the tourism funding, particularly in the year that Richmond Harbour was redeveloped and officially opening and the canal was reopened, which he said was a major tourism boost to the county.
The reallocation of funds brought the community grants up to €46,000.