Laois County Council revealed their 2014 budget of €53,9m, last Friday December 20, praised as a ‘perfect budget’by several councillors.
The council have again set aside over half a million in retirement gratuities as staff numbers continue to fall, including six of the 25 councillors after May local elections.
However the new centralised national payroll contract, won by Laois County Council, begins in January, eventually taking on 73 extra staff.
It was praised as a coup for county manager Peter Carey, who agreed “we are very proud of that achievement”.
“This was a very productive year, but the past five years have been difficult, with unprecedented reforms, we took big hits, but maintained frontline services,” he said.
Half of the €6m saving in the €53.9m budget is from the transfer of water services to Irish Water in January.
The council will now only be responsible for public toilets and water debt collection.
Money to the homeless service is up €5,500 to €51,000.
The council willl spend almost half a million insulating another 113 council houses in 2014, however the difficulties faced by people paying mortgages on affordable and shared ownership schemes was noted by Cllr Willie Aird.
“They need to be bailed out,” he said.
Almost €10 million will be spent in housing, a drop of €620,000 from 2013. The council gave 24 housing loans last year and are “open for business” says Director of Finance Gerry Murphy.
He defended the rise in council rents, saying “the only people paying more are those that should have been paying more as their circumstances had improved”.
A new grant for localised road repairs , €30,000 for each of the three new electoral areas Laois, was welcomed.
Cathaoirleach Cllr Mary Sweeney hoped it would end “those dreaded words we hear many times, ‘no funding’”.
She welcomed the €50,000 for library books, and a continued €130,000 for the Dunamase Arts Centre.
A new government policy that two fire units attend all house fire and road traffic accident was tagged “a load of rubbish” by Cllr Paul Mitchell.