Clare Fifth from the bottom – many Local Authorities are now struggling – BREEN.

July 24th, 2009 - Pat Breen

Fine Gael’s Deputy Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Clare T.D. Pat Breen speaking in Dail Eireann recently during the Debate on the Second Stage of the Local Government (Charges) Bill 2009 said that “Clare is fifth from the bottom with respect to monies received from Central Government in 2008”. Deputy Breen claimed that as a result of this shortfall in funding “there were knock-on affects for each of the town councils in Kilrush, Kilkee, Ennis and Shannon”, whom he said would now have to “cut their cloth to suit the measure of their income reduction.”

Deputy Breen went on to say that “many local authorities are now struggling” and that this will be reflected “on the delivery of services”. He said that “potholes are returning in many rural roads and hedges are not being cut back on the secondary and local roads”, and that “the lack of funding is also restricting the council’s good work in helping older people to adapt their homes in order to address their changing needs” resulting in the fact that no new applications are being accepted for the Housing Aid for the Elderly Scheme this year.”

Calling for a debate on the entire issue of Local Government Funding, Deputy Breen questioned whether the €200 Income charge which was being imposed in this legislation would be an “additional income stream” for Local authorities or whether this will be reflected in a further reduction in funding from Central Government.”
“This aspect needs to be clarified”, Deputy Breen said.

Local Government (Charges) Bill 2009 Second Stage.
Thursday, 9th July 2009
Deputy Pat Breen T.D.

Deputy Pat Breen: I welcome the opportunity to comment on the Bill. Funding for local authorities has not been addressed but a debate on that matter should take place at some stage. Many local authorities throughout the country are contemplating some very unpalatable decisions as they struggle and try to keep essential services in place, because funding from Government has been cut dramatically and, in some cases, it has dried up completely. In the constituency of Clare, the local government fund allocation from central Government was cut by €1.1million in 2008 and there was also a direction from the Minister to cut payroll and administration costs by 3%. There are knock-on effects for each of the town councils in Kilrush, Kilkee, Ennis and Shannon who now have to cut their cloth to suit the measure of their income reduction and no matter how it is dressed up, this will have an effect on the delivery of services. I would argue that County Clare has done very badly and it is fifth from the bottom with respect to moneys received from central Government in 2008.
The moneys collected from the imposition of this €200 income charge was expected by many local authorities to be an additional income stream for them but I question whether this is the case. Will this be reflected in a further reduction in the funding from central Government? This aspect needs to be clarified.
Many local authorities are now struggling. The 2009 roads programme in Clare has been reduced by 5%. Deputy Michael McGrath referred in his contribution to the level of charges in south Tipperary. I was beginning to wonder for a while if he was a member of the Opposition and if he had made any representations to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Potholes are returning in many rural roads and hedges are not being cut back on the secondary and local roads. The majority of accidents take place on secondary roads, many of which are very narrow and the overgrown hedges reduce visibility even further.
The lack of funding is also restricting the council’s good work in helping older people to adapt their homes in order to address their changing needs and no new applications are being accepted for the housing aid for the elderly scheme this year.
I welcome the decision by the Minister to exempt mobile homes from the €200 tax. Like every sector in this country, the tourism sector is in crisis as Deputy Mitchell outlined very well in her contribution. Hoteliers in the mid-west region are only achieving 30% to 35% occupancy in the middle of July which is their high season. Many Irish people are expected to holiday at home this year and we should not be imposing any form of tax that could jeopardise the tourism business. My county has quite a number of caravans and mobile homes, particularly in the resorts of Kilkee, Lahinch and Spanish Point. Those resorts depend on the summer influx to keep them going. I spoke to one man recently who told me that he is already up to his ears with bills and this levy was the final straw for him.
Deputy Mitchell raised a very important point about self-catering holiday cottages. This will affect my county as a €200 tax will be administered for this accommodation. Will the tax be paid by the owner or by the person renting the cottage? If it is to be paid by the owner, has the Minister considered the administrative difficulties particularly in the current crisis? These will have an adverse effect. One owner of holiday cottages told me he has no bookings for July.
I urge the Minister to consider the tourism sector. The travel tax did considerable damage to our airports and this tax will do the same to holiday cottages in our resorts.
ENDS.