'Every Longford citizen to benefit from Budget 2019' as council signs off on ambitious spending programme

Liam Cosgrove

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Liam Cosgrove

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liam.cosgrove@longfordleader.ie

Longford County Council steps up bid to create Mid Shannon Wilderness project

Over €45m will be spent across a plethora of local projects in Longford next year after councillors signed off on Longford County Council's Draft Annual Budget for 2019

More than €45m of public monies will be shelled out across a stream of key infrastructural and local community projects in Longford next year in what is being billed as the most “progressive, forward thinking” local authority budgets for many years.

Longford County Council signed off on its Draft 2019 Annual Budget at a meeting on Monday afternoon in a move which will see increases to every service division over the next 12 months.

Head of Finance John McKeon alluded to decision taken by councillors in September to raise Local Property Tax (LPT) by 15 per cent as a chief determinant in allowing council chiefs the freedom to flex its new found financial muscle next year.

“This is the most progressive budget I have had the privilege to deliver in my career and is something we can all be proud of,” he told a hushed chamber.

Mr McKeon said the estimated €45.2m spend set aside for next year would be reflected in communities up and down the county, resulting in a an overall €1,108 outlay per citizen, over €2,600 per LPT payer and a sizeable €31,956 return for each individual commercial ratepayers.

Longford’s roads network looks set to be the biggest beneficiary with over €11.2m being set aside for next year.

More than €9m is to be spent under the Council’s Housing and Buildings division on the construction of over 80 new houses, the provision of a new energy retrofit programme while 12 ‘voids’ or vacant units are also expected to be brought back into use.

The third biggest recipient is that of the broad title of ‘Development Management’ where €7.6m will be allocated to supporting local communities, implementing the Co Development Plan 2015-21 and enhancing Longford’s burgeoning tourism sector.

The decision to hike LPT charges by 15 per cent next year will bring over €7.2m into local authority coffers and ensuring its position at the summit of the State’s Equalisation distribution table is retained.

Those monies, it was revealed, have been earmarked to service a €1.5m loan which council bosses hope to match fund around €6m towards a string of countywide regeneration projects next year.

The move will also see additional finance being ring-fenced for each of the county’s three municipal districts, bringing to €333,000 what homeowners and local residents can expect to be spent within their own communities in 2019.

In comparison to just two years earlier when a total of €174,000 was distributed countywide, elected members were told the decision to vary LPT charges had effectively brought about a 100 per cent increase in the county’s General Municipal allocations.

“It means that Longford County Council can now deliver a large number of large scale projects in 2019,” he told the meeting.

A previously agreed move to freeze commercial rate charges for next year and the fact the potential to roll out a vacant property levy had been overlooked were further “highlights” to a budget which would still deliver the highest collection of commercial rates in over a decade.

In a further revelation, it was confirmed a conscious decision taken by local politicians to forego their annual expenses under a suitably named ‘Members Countywide Scheme’ would add a further €50,000 to the Council’s reserves.

It brings to €250,000, the total amount waived by councillors for the development of community based projects throughout Longford.

A new retail scheme aimed at rewarding local businesses for the swift payment of commercial rates is also under consideration for next year in conjunction to a Business Incentive Scheme which is already in situ.