Longford County Council's Head of Finance John McKeon.
Members of Longford County Council were thrilled to unanimously support the local authority’s budget for 2022, which, at €61.6m, is the “largest-ever budget” for Longford County Council.
At a budget meeting on Monday afternoon, Head of Finance for Longford County Council, John McKeon congratulated members, staff and council executive for their hard work throughout the pandemic and expressed his delight at being able to present such a positive budget for the upcoming year.
“€61.6m was announced by the government on the 18th of November, so this will result in additional moneys in this budget that we can allocate to local roads and housing maintenance, and towards harbours and drainage,” he explained.
“The success on that is predicated by certain levels of debt. So if a Local Authority shows a deficit in any particular year, then their ability to borrow in the subsequent year is hampered. So up until recently, that was something that was very real for us and something that we were looking in the face.
“At the end of quarter two, we were running a deficit of approximately €296,000. Now, this would be dependent on the goods and services compensation coming for 2021. We’ve got that and we needed that to turn it around. So at this point, I’d be confident we’re going to show a surplus at the end of 2021. And that’s the seventh surplus in a row.
“We’re now looking at the largest capital and revenue budgets ever seen in Longford County Council, totalling €112m. We have €24m in regeneration projects underway. The Local Property Tax funded Longford model is firing on all cylinders now. Our level of debt still remains manageable. We have increased spending across every service division for 2021 and 2022,” he added.
“So despite all the challenges at the start of 2020, our financially robust position has been maintained and even has been strengthened over the course of the pandemic. Today it results in the largest ever revenue budget for Longford County Council. So we’ve come through everything so well that we’re now in a position to be able to present this large budget today.”
Going forward into 2022, there will be a number of challenges that the council will come up against, including the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
The council suffered a loss of €594,000 in goods and services income in 2021 and that figure is continuing to rise. A further blow to the finances was the increase Covid-19 related costs incurred in 2021, which amount to €386,000 so far and continue to rise.
Those losses were leaving the council with a shortfall of €980,000 up until the government’s announcement of €61.6m to be paid to the sector towards those losses and extra costs associated with the pandemic.
“This is a very welcome result and it was a result of intense lobbying from our local representatives and national public representatives as well.”
Cathaoirleach of Longford County Council Peggy Nolan was the first of her colleagues to welcome the good news and congratulated Mr McKeon and his staff on their hard work.
“This is the sixth year that you’ve delivered a budget that we can be very, very proud of,” she said, “€62m in one of the smallest counties in Ireland. Every service is going to see an increase in spend right across all of the models within the council.
“As members of this council, it’s something that we appreciate and we think will enhance the lives of the people that elected us. Stronger together is the mantra of the council and I believe that this council is working great as members.
“I believe we’ve never had a stronger executive and the staff that are in your department, John, are second to none. I can’t give any more plaudits than I’ve given because there are no superlatives that would really, adequately describe the work that’s going on to deliver such a budget. As Cathaoirleach, I am absolutely honoured to sit here this evening and ask the members to adopt this budget.”
That support was quickly echoed by her council colleagues who unanimously voted to pass the budget. Cllr Seamus Butler, commenting on the regeneration projects that are planned for 2022 dubbed next year the 'Year of the Stork' - “because it will be the year that we deliver,” he said.
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