The formation of the next government has raised “immediate concerns” locally if Sinn Féin head up a minority led government and follow through on its pre-election promise to abolish the local property tax.
It, together with a new wealth tax and a third rate of income tax are among a raft of proposals earmarked for inclusion in any possible programme for government. However, it is the looming threat hanging over multi million euro LPT returns which has sparked unrest at local political level given that Longford is the highest beneficiary of property tax funding in the country.
Should those fears be realised, it has led to question marks as to how Longford’s ongoing countywide regeneration plan will be upheld.
“I do have some immediate concerns in terms of how local government will continue to be funded into the future,” said Independent Cllr Gerry Warnock.
“There have been some pre-election pledges to abolish the Local Property Tax that would immediately put a €500m hole in Local Government funding. What would replace this mechanism? Would the council’s continue to retain its discretion on spending?
“These are very real concerns for councils, particularly smaller councils such as Longford with a low population and tax base.”
Cllr Warnock, who has long championed the need for a regeneration blueprint to be rolled out across Longford, said the financial rewards from the local property tax has contributed significantly to the county’s ongoing socio-economic revival.
“In 2019 Longford raised €2.1m from the LPT, 80% of which was retained locally for the provision of services,” he said.
“In addition, because of our low base, we received €7.2m from the Equalisation Fund to bring our block grant up to €8.9m.
“Longford County Council used its statutory discretion to increase the base rate by 15% bringing in a further €318k that we ringfenced to service a €3m low interest loan that would be used as matched funding by the council to draw down €12m in Regeneration Grants.
“We have seen how this model has benefited the county through schemes such as the Royal Canal Project, Granard Motte and Edgeworthstown Library to name a few. The continuation of the ‘Longford Model’ is absolutely critical in being able to deliver on future projects such as the massive Camlin Quarter Plan.”
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