€30,000 will be shaved off the funding of services provided by Tullamore Town Council in a bid to secure a 1% reduction in the town’s commercial rate.
Following a lengthy budget meeting on Thursday, the decision was taken to decrease funding to a number of areas to achieve the rate reduction for businesses.
The reduction, proposed by Fianna Fail, will be achieved by cutting funding from Housing Estate Maintenance by €4,000, Halting Site Maintenance by €6,000, Public Lighting by €3,000, Parks and Open Spaces by €2,000, Town Park and its care taking by €2,000.
Cuts will also be made to the Local Election fund by €5,000, civic receptions will be reduced by €2,000, the Chairperson’s allowance will be reduced by €750 with the reduction of funding for the Town Hall maintenance by €2,000. The cost of postage will be reduced by €1,500 along with funding for conferences to be decreased by €1,200.
Initially, Mr Declan Kirrane, Town Manager, warned the Town Council wasn’t in a position to consider a rate reduction. “I appreciate that some members wish to reduce the rates. We have met with the Chamber of Commerce and had a frank discussion with them.”
The councillors heard that a huge portion of the Council’s income is generated from the collection of commercial rates. Mr Kirrane said there is “an ongoing problem” with the Council and the limited financial base from which it can generate money from, pointing to “an over reliance on one area”.
“We need to look at who benefits from a rate reduction and how it affects the Town Council”, he said, explaining that the income from the rates was spent on the provision of services in the town such as street cleaning and maintenance, public lighting, litter management as well as other areas and questioned where does the greater benefit lie with a reduction.
Mr Kirrane believed that the balance should fall with the maintenance of services as he noted the recent submission by the Chamber of Commerce on the issue. “However, we can’t consider it,” he stated, recommending that the members accepted the budget as presented with no reduction in the commercial rate.
Following this, Cllr Paddy Rowland proposed a rate reduction of 2% to be achieved by cutting funding from various areas of council expenditure. He said that “we view that we have to present a balanced budget that doesn’t affect services”. “We have to balance that with the fact that 75 per cent of where our income is coming from. A lot of businesses have already closed and more are closing.We need to send a clear message to the businesses that are open.”
“We have a responsibility to the rate payers and we need to look at this. We are coming with a realistic proposal. We are proposing a reduction from other areas and proposing a two per cent reduction commercial rates.”
Outlining the proposed changes, Cllr Rowland said that these were areas that would be least affected by funding cuts. “We have to send out a clear message. The message coming out here is that we have reduced the rate and open for business,” the Fianna Fail councillor said and asked his colleagues for their support for the proposed reduction.
Supporting his colleague, Cllr Tony McCormack said that it was imperative as councillors to make a decision on something that will be noted around the country in respect of a rate reduction. “I hope that people will support the proposals for a reduction,” he added.
Cllr Dooley said the Council will have to “bite the bullet on this” . Cllr O’Brien said the council will be increasing cut backs if these proposals go ahead. “All for one group to deliver to one group. It is utterly irresponsibility to reduce this.”
Later in the meeting, Cllr Rowland adjusted his figures when it was discovered that the Town Council would not be receiving a €38,000 sum from the Irish Public Body [IPB] in 2012.
Cllr Tommy McKeigue accused the Fianna Fail group of performing a “paper exercise” and maintained that a rate reduction would not make a “significant difference “to businesses in the town. “We have to do the best we can. We are not targeting the smaller businesses but we are not helping them either. I would be weary of what you are doing.”
Following a short recess, the amended proposals put forward a 1% reduction in the commercial rate that was then carried by the majority of the councillors (FF’s Sinead Dooley, Paddy Rowland, Tony McCormack, Declan Harvey & Labour’s Lar Byrne supported the reduction, with FG’s Tommy McKeigue & Molly Buckley, SF’s Brendan Killeavy & Ind Sean O’Brien opposing it).
Speaking, following the vote, Cllr Sinead Dooley, an Caothaoirleach of Tullamore Town Council, said a “democratic decision” has been taken by the members.
Meanwhile, the Council’s budget will now be amended by the Council officials, who will now report back to the councillors at the February meeting. Senator John Whelan commended his Labour party colleague Cllr Lar Byrne for his stance. “I’m aware that Cllr Byrne came under considerable pressure not to support the reduction and his decision will help small businesses in Tullamore.”
See pages 8 & 9 for more coverage of last Thursday’s Tullamore Town Council meeting.