Cork City Council look set to reduce non-pay discretionary budget by €1.6m

Cork City Council look set to reduce non-pay discretionary budget by €1.6m

Councillors will be asked to vote on the cuts to various departments and activities in November.

Cork City Council’s discretionary non-pay budget for 2021 looks set to be cut by around €1.6m.

Councillors will be asked to vote on the cuts to various departments and activities in November.

In the document outlining the proposed cuts circulated to councillors this week, the €100,000 allocated for climate action will not be touched, nor will the €445,000 allocation for Traveller accommodation management.

A PR budget of €35,300 remains intact, as does the €85,600 allocated for Tidy Districts grants.

The lord mayor’s budget of €30,000 also escapes cuts, as does the deputy lord mayor’s allocation of €6,000. Those are the additional monies allocated to the councillors elected to those positions on any given year as a salary top up.

However, significant cuts are proposed to members’ travel expenses of €18,300 which essentially halves the budget in that area; €12,000 has been knocked off the civic events budget of €53,000, with half of the €50,000 allocated for members’ training expenses being cut.

The budget for most areas across service divisions, including housing, corporate affairs, and community, culture, and placemaking are set to take cuts. However, most are a small percentage of the overall funding provided.

A spokesperson for Cork City Council told The Echo: “The discretionary non-pay budget for 2021 is approximately €24,587,700 before the €1.6m reduction has been taken.

“Consultation with councillors, directors and heads of functions have been ongoing over the last six weeks in relation to the formation of the 2021 budget.

“From the very beginning of the 2021 budget process, all concerned have recognised that as a result of the current global pandemic, achieving a balanced budget for 2021 would be extremely challenging.

“Formation of the 2021 budget has been a very engaging and inclusive process with all parties concerned having contributed to the final outcome.”

The chairman of the Finance and Estimates Committee, Fianna Fáil councillor Seán Martin, said that while cuts have to be made given the situation this year, more central government funding is available in several areas which isn’t reflected.

For example, €4.2m was recently allocated to City Hall for work on vacant houses.

In the proposed cuts outlined, some of the vacant dwellings’ budgets were hit, but it’s thought the deficit will be made back from that additional funding allocation.

Sinn Féin councillor Mick Nugent said the Government should be supporting local authorities which have a deficit, and highlighted that other parts of the deficit are proposed to be made up by increasing local authority rents. The proposals are understood to be an increase of €2 across the board, but nothing has been finalised. The Echo has asked City Hall to clarify the proposals.

“It’s a very difficult budget that’s being presented,” Mr Nugent said, but admitted the circumstances could have been much worse as the council was facing greater financial difficulties earlier in the year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It [the deficit] started off at €5m and then it went down to €4.2. The property tax went up 7.5% which gave them €1.5m, so that brought the deficit down to €2.5m or so.

“They’re going to recoup €1m through rent increases for local authority tenants, and the [final] €1.5m is the proposed cuts.”

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