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Cuts fuel County Council cash crisis fears

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 could be staring bankruptcy in the face if government leaders don’t bring abouta return to equalisation.

The warning comes as councillors last week agreed to write to Environment Minister Phil Hogan and seek a meeting over fears of a €6m shortfall in its day to day budget.

Since 2008, Longford Co Council’s state funding or more commonly known ‘Local Government Fund’ has fallen from €15.75m to just over €8m.

This includes an expected €2.2m finance officials expect to collect from property tax charges.

Those figures were met with anger last week as it emerged 20 per cent, or close to €500,000 of property tax revenues from next year would go towards a centralised local government pot.

“Unless we get equalisation, we (Council) are banjaxed,” said a plain-speaking Cllr Peggy Nolan.

“No matter what side of the house we are on, as county council we have to demand that we are listened to.”

Cathaoirleach, Cllr Mark Casey adopted a similar tone, claiming it was the “single biggest issue” facing the council in his time in public office.

There were guarded warnings too, illustrated by the sobering prognosis which came from CEO Tim Caffrey.

“If it stays like this, unless there is an acceptance of equalisation, not only Longford but several other counties like this will not be able to function,” he conceded.

“We (Council) should send a very clear message to the Department (of Environment) that we need equalisation to survive.”

It’s now anticipated a letter, highlighting those concerns will be sent to Mr Hogan’s Dublin offices over the next number of days.

A department spokesman replied, stating the monies generated by property tax revenues would have multiple benefits.

One of those, he said, was the likelihood of a more sustainable and resilient system of funding for local authorities like Longford.

Greater local scope for financial decision-making concerning service provision and a strengthening of democracy at local level, were others given particular credence.

“The Department will continue to work with local authorities to ensure that they have an appropriate level of information, including in relation to LPT retention, to facilitate their budget process for 2015,” he said.

 

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