€5m rise in budget spend brings a mixed reaction

by Sylvia Pownall

THE council has approved a budget that will lead to a 2.5% reduction in commercial rates and boost small business.
On Tuesday, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown councillors signed off on a spend of €171.7 million – an increase of €5 million on last year’s allocation.
The budget focuses on housing, job creation and stimulating economic growth through a new SME support grant.
The subsidy will benefit 72% of businesses in the local authority catchment area – and means 3,800 firms will qualify for a 2.5% rate reduction.
The local authority also followed through on its commitment earlier this year to avail of the maximum 15% reduction to the basic rate of the Local Property Tax.
On the housing front, there is a provision of €180,000 to proceed with repairs and renovations on older units, clearing the way for residents to downsize.
There is also an increase of €230,000 for Part V planning, which will allow for more social housing units to be purchased.
Staffing and financial costs to process housing assistance payments – which some councillors warned was a step closer to privatisation – have also been allocated, to the tune of €283,000.
The local authority will spend €500,000 to begin a phased replacement of its fleet of 230 vehicles, 34% of which are more than 11 years old, to include electrical vehicles.

Grants
A provision of €300,000 has been made for business promotion grants, shop front improvement grants, vacant shop grants, retail development and the Springboard scheme.
Chairman, Cllr Cormac Devlin (FF) welcomed the budget, noting it included “a number of pro-business initiatives”.
He added: “This reflects the council’s commitment to shaping and promoting a Smart, vibrant county which is attractive, inclusive and accessible to all.”
However, People Before Profit members, who voted against the budget, warned it supported worrying national trends towards privatisation and still bore the hallmarks of austerity.
The party pointed out that funding of the council has been cut by almost one quarter, and staffing levels have fallen by 30%, since 2008.
Cllr Melissa Halpin said: “It is a total outrage that despite promises of recovery, the council is now running on a budget 25% lower than in 2008.
“The process of the recession has been to establish austerity as a norm.”
She said the fact that the budget provided for staffless libraries but no funding for housing maintenance or parks was a “disgrace”.
Cllr David O’Keeffe said: “The whole budget process is a joke. We tried to make changes but all our motions were ruled out of order.”

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