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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

WBC estimate night beckons

Next Tuesday is the night when Wexford Borough Council will debate estimates for 2009. The borough estimate is effectively the town’s budget. It provides money for the running of the town in the following year.
Without a doubt it will be a difficult year brought about because the government grant to the council was reduced by almost 7%, revenues will be down because people are spending less, for instance the reduction in motoring will mean less in parking fees. The collapse in the construction sector means less for local authorities in development levies, a contribution that was unsustainable anyway. My local authority has few revenue sources, rates, parking charges, development levies, and charges that are levied for miscellaneous services.
So when the 2009 budget announced that we were to get a €200 charge on non principle private second homes I thought that a new revenue stream would help our authority to weather the worse of the cuts but now it appears not. The minister said it was specifically to fund local authorities. This is not just a levy on holiday homes, it’s a levy on homes let out by landlords. I asked the town manager if whether the charge would be levied and by who and although he was precluded by data protection legislation from determining the number of rented homes in Wexford he said that the number of homes in Co Wexford was 5,300 from the PRTB website. To make matters worse our manager said that the cut in grant allowed for whatever revenues would be raised by the tax.
Well when I looked at the PRTB register I found that there are 1,662 houses registered for tenancies in Wexford Borough Council’s area. That should be €332,400 extra in our budget for next year but this government couldn’t manage a Christmas party in a brewery so back it goes to central government, sucked out of Wexford and off to Dublin to shore up the developers and bankers. If the government had kept its word we could have spent more in 09 not less as the tax would have more than made up for he reduction in the grant.
I’ll be looking closely at the estimates, I genuinely believe some councillors will throw shapes to be seen moaning in the media for the sake of it, this issue however is fundamental to the proper funding of our local authority. What is the point in having councillors if in October you promise a new revenue stream if by December it’s gone?

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