CORK City councillors agreed an expenditure budget of €226m for 2021 at their annual budget meeting last evening, an increase of approximately €4m in spending compared to 2020.
The budget was passed by a 22-8 majority of councillors.
The main contributors to the increase in expenditure are:
- Payroll, up €800,000;
- Pensions, rising €500,000;
- Funding for public lighting, up €1.6m;
- An extra €400,000 for traffic signals.
In September, councillors voted to increase the Local Property Tax by 7.5%, which will represent an additional €1.6m income to the local authority in 2021.
In a report to members, Cork City Council chief executive Ann Doherty said the decision to increase Local Property Tax was welcome as it provided for “an additional source of badly needed income to assist in balancing the budget”.
“However, even allowing for this increase, the city council will have reduced incomes in all its revenue streams for 2021,” she said.
“As a result, the city council has had to curtail its spend on services by €1.5m across all directorates within the organisation
Speaking at the meeting last night, Sinn Féin councillor Mick Nugent said a figure with which he was particularly concerned was a cut to housing maintenance.
“A figure that stands out for me is over €400,000 cut in housing maintenance,” he said.
Mr Nugent also flagged concerns about plans outlined to increase rents of local authority tenants.
Fianna Fáil councillor and chair of the Housing SPC Terry Shannon said councillors spent lots of time looking at where holes could be plugged and said that there will not be an across the board increase in rent.
“Where rents are concerned, we do have what’s known as the differential rents scheme,” he said.
“Where people are in the position to pay a little extra, they will be asked to do so; where people aren’t, they won’t.”
As part of the budget, there will be €2.3m allocated to events, community, arts, and sports grants.
There will also be no increase to commercial rates in 2021 and no increase to parking charges in 2021, which remain at €1.70/€2.00/€2.30 for both on-street and off-street parking.
Speaking at the meeting last night, Fine Gael councillor Deirdre Forde said the budget for 2021 “could be likened to the miracle of turning water into wine”.
“The pragmatic co-operation of councillors, directors, and government means we have managed the best outcome against all the odds for business and people of Cork, despite the challenges of the extension of the city boundary, the pandemic, the recession, and Brexit,” she said.
“The €226m budget has been well stretched and the approach has been innovative and collaborative.”
Green Party councillor Colette Finn, meanwhile, said that there had been “extensive engagement” on the budget.
“The priority for us [the Green group] was to protect services and despite revenue losses, we think we’ve done a reasonably good job,” she said.
Last night, the chief executive also told councillors that she had received a letter stating that “in respect to financial pressures that may arise next year, there is some support that will be forthcoming from central government”.