Funding cuts heap added pressure on council budget

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Street cleaning services in Longford town are to be reduced from seven to five days over the next few weeks as local authority officials battle with further reductions to their annual budget.

Environment Minister Phil Hogan’s decision to slice an additional five per cent, or €43,723 from Longford Town Council’s Local Government Fund for 2013, is one of the chief reasons behind the planned measure.

Administrative officer Mark McNerney, speaking at last Wednesday’s annual budget meeting, said the move was also dictated by other factors.

“The reason for that is obviously the costs (involved) in providing that service but it’s also to free up staff to be assigned to other areas,” he said.

“It is very important that we try and balance the two by reducing costs on one hand and actually trying to assign staff to other areas as well.”

Details of the intended reduction in street cleaning services comes just days after Longford town was named as being amongst Ireland’s cleanest locations.

Only two towns from a total of 42 surveyed finished ahead of Longford in the first round of the Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL) League’s annual awards.

And in a bid to strengthen that hand, councillors succeeded in adding €7,000 to the previously €8,000 assigned for Tidy Towns commitments for the forthcoming year.

“We came from a position of being the dirtiest town in Ireland over the past number of years, through voluntary engagement with the Tidy Towns, to number seven,” said an evidently proud Town Mayor, Cllr Peggy Nolan. “I can see in the very short future we could possibly take first place in that because we had eight A’s and two B’s.”

Cllr Tony Flahery, who led calls for funding streams to be maintained, said it was incumbent on elected representatives to leave a lasting legacy before town councils are eventually scrapped in 2014.

“At the very least the Tidy Towns should be given the same as what they got (financially) last year,” he said. “To go from being the dirtiest to the third tidiest just shows what can be done and it’s important that we (councillors) leave the town in a good operational state.”

As councillors also rubber-stamped proposals for street cleaning services to be continued on consecutive days, others headed by Cllr Michael Connellan illustrated the signifance of Longford’s present crop of Tidy Towns volunteers.

Pausing to reveal committee figureheads were willing to undertake street cleaning on the two days when council staff were not assigned to those duties, Cllr Connellan said: “They (committee) have indicated to myself and Cllr Connell that 36 bags of rubbish were collected from the Rugby Club to Kilmore Cross. That’s an indication of how much litter is in place throughout the town.”


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