A steadily growing number of local authority houses in the greater Longford town area could run the risk of falling into disrepair because of a near 22 per cent reduction in budget cuts.
In all, approximately €212,511 will be allocated for maintenance costs in 2013, councillors were told at last week’s annual budget meeting.
The reduction, announced by administrative officer Mark McNerney, led to angry criticism from Independent Cllr Gerry Warnock.
“It doesn’t make for pleasant reading,” he explained as councillors took time to have their say on the council’s 2013 draft budget. “I think the tragedy of this document is the reduction of nearly 22 per cent in the Housing Maintenance Budget. To me that is totally unacceptable. It is one of the better performing goods and services areas and to say we can totally isolate our tenants, some of whom are in need of repairs in their houses, is an absolute disgrace.”
He said, like the town’s many rate-payers, priority must also be afforded to one of the council’s most important revenue streams-its tenants.
“Reductions of this nature are pushing local authority tenants into the private sector and to be honest, who could blame them? I am actually angry about it. My own opinion is that of the rents that are collected, at least 50 per cent of that should be ring-fenced for maintenance of our houses. We have people there, despite the economic downturn, doing their best to pay their rent.
Cllr Mae Sexton was another to raise her own misgivings, saying now was the time to support many of the council’s longest serving leaseholders.
“Our tenants are saints in a lot of cases,” she pointed out. “They are continuing to spend money to look after their houses so really it is crazy that we are not looking after them.”
In response, the council accepted the 21.8 per cent reduction in housing maintenance spending going forward was “substantial”, but one that would not lead to any worsening in the council’s existing housing supply.
“We looked at that area (housing maintenance) and the whole area of contractors,” said council executive member Mark McNerney. “I accept that it is a substantial reduction but we would be confident there would be no further deterioration in housing stock.”