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  • Southside

Big budget blues follow council vote

Wednesday, 13th November, 2019 8:00am
Big budget blues follow council vote
Big budget blues follow council vote

AN INCREASE in commercial rates and car parking charges in Dún Laoghaire has been described as another nail in the coffin for the town.

Speaking after last week’s vote to adopt Budget 2020, Fine Gael Group Leader, Cllr Barry Saul, said the 3.5 per cent increase in commercial rates and a 33 per cent hike in parking charges would further cripple the struggling retail sector.

“Increasing rates and car parking charges will have a detrimental effect on footfall in the town and environs,” Cllr Saul said. “And everybody is behind the move to get more people onto bicycles and out of their cars but that takes time and requires the provision of cycle lanes and other infrastructure.

“Although there has been a welcome €60 million invested into Dún Laoghaire in recent years, through the new library and so on, the cuts to road and path budgets, tree pruning, parks and pitches, playgrounds, the Beach access programme, community grants and to free dlr events affects the area directly in the short term.”

In a statement issued in the wake of the budget being passed, People Before Profit councillor Melisa Halpin and Dún Laoghaire TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the slashing of funds to retrofitting and environmental awareness with no extra allocation for cycling infrastructure, street recycling bins or street cleaning “beggars belief”.

“The biggest losers in this week’s budget are the struggling town centres and the environment,” Richard Boyd Barrett TD said. “The ruling group in the council, Fianna Fail, Green Party, Labour, Social Democrats and some independents voted for a budget that increased rates and parking charges.

“This will have a devastating impact on Dún Laoghaire town centre and the other struggling towns and villages around the county.”

Cllr Melisa Halpin added: “We should have reduced parking charges and funded free parking hours to encourage footfall in the towns and villages rather than increasing the charges.

“Last year DLR was the first county in the country to declare a climate emergency proposed by People Before Profit. If there was any commitment to taking that seriously, there would have been a doubling, at least, of the money for the council home retrofit programme, investment in street recycling, more money for cycling infrastructure, not less, and a big investment in environmental awareness.”

Speaking ahead of the vote, local TD and Minister, Josepha Madigan, also criticised the controlling group of Fianna Fáil, the Green Party, and the Independents on Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, for the intention to increase business rates in the budget.

“Small businesses are at the heart of all our communities and provide thousands of jobs,” Minister Madigan said. “When Fine Gael was in the controlling group on Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council we managed to reduce rates by 5.5 per cent in 10 years. This benefited local businesses, allowing them to invest locally and recruit more staff. Now much of this progress will be eliminated by Fianna Fáil and the Green Party.

“I stand with small businesses in Dún Laoghaire Rathdown,” she added. “The council budget should instead look at better managing taxpayers’ money more efficiently instead of hurting small businesses and by extension all of our local communities.”

In a statement issued after the vote, Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council said Budget 2020 provides for €193 million in expenditure on service provision, an increase of almost €10 million on 2019.

“The budget provision focuses on the maintenance and enhancement of existing service delivery levels with provisions for housing maintenance and adaptation grants, and €3.85 million for homeless services,” the council stated. “It also makes further provision for business and economic supports designed to foster economic development, attain best practice in climate action policies, enhance the public realm and develop our communities.

“Over the last decade the county has seen a reduction in commercial rates of 5.5 per cent alongside a corresponding 5.5 per cent increase in the Consumer Price Index over the same period.

“The council must run a balanced budget and as part of a number of measures to ensure the delivery of services, budget 2020 provides for a commercial rate increase of 3.5 per cent.

“A full range of business supports have been retained for 2020 including the business support grant where 85 per cent of ratepayers can benefit and thus reduce their rates liability.”

Speaking of the adoption of the Budget 2020, cathaoirleach Cllr Shay Brennan, added: “This budget will enable the council to drive initiatives that will be of significant benefit to the people of Dún Laoghaire Rathdown.

“I am pleased that the council has adopted an increased expenditure budget for 2020 to secure service delivery levels in some areas and expand on them in others.

“The provision of a rate increase, while a challenge for businesses, is necessary to balance the budget and will be countered by grants schemes, Village Renewal projects, footfall initiatives and public realm schemes.”

The cathaoirleach  added: “The council takes its responsibilities as a leader in climate action very seriously and I am delighted to see a number of initiatives, especially the appointment of a dedicated Climate Action Officer.”

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