No increases in parking or rates as City Hall passes 2019 budget

No increases in parking or rates as City Hall passes 2019 budget

The budget, which passed by 27 votes to 3, represents a €6.6 million increase on the spending levels of 2018. Pic; Larry Cummins

CORK City Council last night agreed an expenditure budget of €166.8 million for 2019.

The budget, which passed by 27 votes to 3, represents a €6.6 million increase on the spending levels of 2018.

It is a 4% increase on last year and a 9.4% increase since the 2015 budget, the first to be voted on by the current council. Last night's meeting was the last that will take place before the expansion of the city boundary, which will see areas like Douglas, Ballincollig and Glanmire come into the city authority next May.

The budget will see an increase in spend in almost all council directorates, including the allocation of more than €48 million for housing spend, up from €46 million last year.

€29 million has been allocated for an extensive roads programme, with €12.79 million set aside for development management. A further €33 million has been allocated for environmental services, while €23.1 million will be spent in the recreation and amenity directorate.

The budget includes no provisions to increase commercial rates or charges at City Council-run parking amenities, while there are also no plans to change the on-street parking charges either.

Cork City Council will also continue to run its rates rebate scheme, which includes a 4% refund for compliant rates payers.

It includes funding for four additional housing officers, who will deal directly with social housing tenant and community issues, as well as a vacant homes officer and three building inspectors, who will be used to inspect private rented accommodation.

Housing remained a key focus of the budget with the allocation of €48.7 million representing 29% of the council's total expenditure, the largest allocation of any directorate.

The budget includes an allocation of some €15.8 million for housing maintenance, as well as €9.98 million for the Rent Allowance Scheme (RAS). Councillors also approved €2.2 million in disabled persons grants and some €8.6 million for the administration of homeless services.

The €29 million set aside for roads funding accounts for 17% of total planned expenditure next year. It is an increase of €2.39 million on last year's funding.

Speaking at the meeting, Ann Doherty, chief executive of Cork City Council, described the preparation of the budget as 'a challenging task.'

"Many of our income sources continue to be under pressure, while increased demand for services in many areas increases the pressure on the city's finances," she said.

There will be no change to the Local Property Tax (LPT) rate in the city in the coming year, while City Hall has also allocated some €568,300 of its revenue reserves to cover shortfalls in the budget. It follows the allocation of €520,700 in reserve funding last year.

Following the passing of the budget, Thomas McHugh, director of public affairs at Cork Chamber, called on national government to back the work done locally.

"With 10,000 jobs on the way in the redevelopment of our docklands commercial offer, the rates base will continue to increase and the business community will continue to advocate for a progressive, vibrant and diverse city region," he said.

"It is also clear that in the areas where increased expenditure is raised, the City Council is delivering and will deliver in 2019.

"In this context, it is essential that the NTA transport strategy for Cork is made available without delay. The Bus Connects fund of €200 million must be put into action immediately so that the necessary steps can be taken to facilitate this growth and to drive a public transport programme that matches the need. Looking to Dublin, to their progress on Bus Connects, we are behind in the delivery of a public transport system that acknowledges our current, near term and future scale."

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