Austerity cuts, extra costs force rates rise says council chief

Council Laois businesses must shoulder cost of govt cuts and rising population

Austerity cuts, extra costs force rates rise says council chief
By Lynda Kiernannews@leinsterexpress.ieTwitter: @laoisnews

Falling income combined with sustained Government budget cuts caused by austerity has forced county councillors to take more from local employers.

The 3 percent increase in rates, projected to bring in an extra €370,000, was recommended by the council's chief executive John Mulholland, who said it was needed to balance the books next year.

"Unless Laois County Council can identify a new stream of funding or increase revenue from an existing income stream it will not be possible to present a balanced Revenue Budget for 2017,” he had warned prior to the councillors vote last Monday November 14.

Next year Laois will spend €59.3 million, up 4 percent from this year. It compares with €73 million in 2008.

During the same period more than 100 staff were cut from Laois County Council.

The chief executive pointed out the Laois takes less in property taxes and rates than any other county.

Mr Mulholland listed increased insurance costs, extra public lighting, unfinished housing estates, more regulation requirements and the low property tax rates as extra pressures.

Next January, the rate will rise from €64.63 to €66.57 . (The total to be paid is calculated by multiplying the rateable valuation of the property by the annual rate on valuation as adopted by the council at its annual budget meeting)

The county has over 1,700 businesses, but only the biggest will pay the full extra cost.

Councillors also voted to boost the rates incentive scheme, giving a 4 percent discount to small businesses who pay up their commercial rates by the end of 2017.

It is also widened to businesses owing up to €8,500, previously set at €5,000.

However unpaid rates from previous years must still be paid.

Cllr John Moran, FG, proposed the approval of the council's 2017 budget of almost €60m, with the rates increase, and a boosted incentive scheme.

“A lot of work has been put into writing the 2017 budget. The benefits outweigh the 3 percent, I feel the benefit is to the public,” he said, seconded by Cllr Paschal McEvoy, FF.

“It's really needed to continue carrying out public servies to Laois,” he said.

Cllr Brendan Phelan (Ind) proposed the increase be deferred a year.

“We have to take into consideration the implications of Brexit and the US, we are sending out all the wrong messages. If 15 percent of vacant premises were occupied, we wouldn't need the increase,” he said, seconded by Cllr Caroline Dwane SF.

The population grew by 4,200 here since 2011, the equivalent of another town the size of Mountmellick, Mr Mulholland said.

Laois has grown by 17,700 people since 2006, reaching 84,732 by the 2016 Census.