Harbour project puts council coffers under strain

by Gazette Reporter
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COSTS associated with taking over Dun Laoghaire Harbour have already had a “significant” negative impact on the council’s financial resources, according to its 2019 accounts.

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council has already forked out more than e2m for initial emergency repairs and legal transfer of control, councillors have been told.

The local authority is warning that this is merely the tip of the iceberg with the cost of assimilating the staff and pension payments of the former harbour company adding to the burden.

DLR’s draft financial statement for 2019 notes that “local economic conditions remained robust during 2019” which was its first full year of control of the harbour.

But despite this the council’s revenue account returned a deficit of more than e1m – “the first time for many years that there has been a reported deficit on the Revenue Account”.

The financial statement noted: “The deficit arose due to the transfer of Dún Laoghaire Harbour to the council.

“For some time prior to its transfer to the council, Dún Laoghaire Harbour did not operate on a commercial basis and was primarily a tourism and leisure amenity.”

The management report says the former Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company “did not have the cash flow capacity to survive independently beyond January 2019 and could not therefore transfer to the council as a going concern”.

While notes to the draft accounts said the council “greatly welcomed the transfer of this spectacular amenity, it imposed a significant additional financial burden during 2019”.

The harbour was transferred to the council after a series of failed money-making schemes including a floating swimming pool and an urban beach on the east pier.

Other proposals including a marine visitor centre, hotel and apartments and retail development were also shelved.

The council’s director of services Therese Langan previously told councillors the cost of “immediate works” could bring immediate costs to €10 million. A consultant’s report found the longer term costs could be as high as €30m.

Dún Laoghaire Rathdown’s 2019 expenditure budget amounted to €183,887,800 and the outturn is for €190,572,884, reflecting an overspend of €6,685,084.

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