DCSIMG

Council on the brink, warns CEO

The offices of Longford County Council. Photo: Michelle Ghee. www.gphotos.ie

The offices of Longford County Council. Photo: Michelle Ghee. www.gphotos.ie

Longford County Council will go to the wall unless there is a fairer distribution of revenues generated from property tax receipts.

Chief executive officer Tim Caffrey repeated the gloomy prognosis from four weeks earlier should the Government press ahead with its plan to retain 20 per cent of revenues at central level.

As things stand, Longford Co Council expects to collect close to €2.2m from property tax returns this year, resulting in almost €500,000 going towards a centralised local government reserve.

Mr Caffrey said the 80:20 arrangement of LPT returns means smaller councils like Longford simply wouldn’t be able to function going forward.

“Even if we collected 100 per cent, we (council) will be short €6.5m. It just wouldn’t work.

“Councils like ourselves won’t survive without equalisation. There needs to be clarity around that and it is very urgent at this stage.”

Turning to address the chamber, he said: “You as members and we as executives are empowered to prepare a draft budget and we simply can’t do that unless there is clarification.”

Sobering words they may have been, but they were words which received the unanimous approval from both sides of the council chamber.

Cathaoirleach Cllr Mark Casey said he intended to hold discussions with councils in similar positions over the next number of weeks.

“We are definitely going to meet up with the mayors and county managers,” he said, revealing as many as 12 local authorities were facing an almost identical situation as that confronting Longford.

Fellow Independent representative Cllr Mae Sexton said the Government only had itself to blame for the mounting confusion among local councils.

“It is reprehensible to change the way local government works and not have the proper structures in place,” she said.

“It’s just not a good a way to do business. We can’t even put a budgetary strategy in place until we know what happens with equalisation.”

Under laws brought in by the Fine Gael-Labour coalition, councils have the power to increase or decrease property tax rates by up to 15 per cent, provided they can balance their books.

Councillors agreed to put the matter of introducing any such changes up for public consultation ahead of any possible rate cuts being made at its September meeting.

 

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