Fianna Fáil local election candidate for Cork City South Central, Cllr Seán Martin, has criticised the Government for its continued attack on local services throughout the city.
Cllr Martin commented: “Since it came to power, the Fine Gael / Labour government has been steadily and repeatedly, in three waves, assaulting local government and the services it provides to the people of Cork.
“The first wave of the assault has been the erosion of budgets. According to Met Éireann, this winter was the harshest in the 148 years of its records. Roads were battered by downpours, some were repeatedly flooded and during the course of the winter many were severely eroded. At much the same time the Roads Grant was itself being eroded by a 2014 budgetary reduction of €800,000.
“The citizens of Cork have a real sense of what it means; there have been no traffic calming measures, no green-to-parking schemes, no estate resurfacing, and no footpath renewals. There is now absolutely no money for the Council to install any new lighting and what little finance is there can only be used to maintain those lights already in place.
“The second wave of the assault has been the imposition of taxes, penalties, and other charges. The imposition of the Local Property Tax (LPT) meant that the Council had to pay national government €1.2 million in taxes due on its social housing stock. Despite paying this money, and despite all the LPT paid by Cork’s residents, the Government decided to impose a €400,000 penalty on the Council because not enough LPT had been paid in Cork City as a whole (€3.5 million was paid in 2012, €5.6 million in 2013, bringing the total to €9.1 million).
“Additionally, the Council was made liable for €800,000 in interest charges on seven land banks purchased by the Council some years ago for social housing. So while the Government gave the Council an €8 million block grant in 2014, the Council was immediately liable for €2.4 million in charges, meaning that the real Government contribution to Council housing coffers was actually €5.6 million.
“The third wave of the assault was the Government reneging on agreements with local authorities. This has been particularly damaging. None of the monies collected from the LPT, for example, have actually been paid to the Council. 80% of the LPT collected across the City was promised to go back into local services. Instead all of the monies have been diverted, not to local budgets but to national ones, to pay the massive setup costs of Irish Water, for example.
“It used to be the case that when work commenced on social housing, the Council would be fully reimbursed by national government for the monies paid on the land and the interest charges accrued. However, in 2011 the Fine Gael / Labour Government changed this, effectively reneging on another agreement that had existed between national and local government, leaving Cork City Council liable for a debt of €37 million on lands it had already purchased. The Council was already carrying debt of €37 million from the affordable housing scheme. Today, total debt is double what it was and stands at approximately €74 million, 44% of Cork City’s €168 million annual budget.”