Updated: 03/10/16 : 07:22:47
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Cathaoirleach Reflects on Challenging Week for the Council

The Cathaoirleach of Sligo County Council Councillor Hubert Keaney says the series of meetings last week has served to highlight the many challenges facing the Authority and has also increased public awareness of the impact reduced finances is having on local services.
 
Corporate Policy Group

‘At our Corporate Policy Group meeting on 19th September, it was confirmed agreed that myself and Chief Executive Ciaran Hayes would meet with Minister Simon Coveney on Wednesday 21st September. We discussed our approach to the opportunity of a face to face meeting with the Minister and the consequences the financial plan and severe reduction in staff was having right across the organisation. While the Library Service is the latest and most public indication of our difficulties, the reality is that many service area in the Council have been under similar pressure to provide a basic level of service with reduced staff numbers and scarce financial resources. Other services impacted include the closure of the Laboratory, the removal of the Cash Office from City Hall, the reduction in public office hours for Housing Section, as well as a severe reduction in staffing levels in our Area offices.
 
Meeting with Minister

The Cathaoirleach said Minister Coveney afforded them the time to present a very thorough briefing, and the Minister acknowledged the severe difficulties facing the Council and the resultant impact on local services. ‘It has been suggested that the Minister exerted pressure on the Council to increase the Local Property Tax. This was not the case, but any discussion around our finances had to consider the benefits  that an increase in the LPT would bring to this Council, it would have been highly irresponsible not to do so. An increase of 15% would yield in the region of €790,000 or €2.4million over three years.
 
Proposal on Local Property Tax

I had discussions with Councillors on Monday last in advance of the Council meeting on the Local Property Tax, and said that I was confident from my conversations with the Minister and his senior officials that the extra revenue generated from the increase in local property tax would have been ‘ring-fenced’ for capital and economic development projects, and some of these projects could attract matching funding

I believe that allocating resources to projects such as tourism marketing & promotion would provide a huge boost to Sligo and would benefit communities all over our county. I also believe that it would have secured the future viability of our Library Services.

Our discussions took place immediately before the Council meeting, and I also asked that the meeting be adjourned to allow further discussions to take place. I outlined that a 15% increase in the Local Property Tax would cost 40% of households €13.50 per year or 3.7 cent a day. For the next 35% of households, the cost would have been €33.75 per year or 9.3 cent a day.

In these circumstances, I believe the Council’s decision on the Local Property Tax may have been a missed opportunity, in terms of providing funding for capital projects, securing local services and also in our future engagement with the Department concerning our Financial Plan. I do however, also acknowledge, that any consideration of raising the charge is difficult for the community and for public representatives.’