Loo budget faces axe: Draft council proposals to cut spending revealed

Loo budget faces axe: Draft council proposals to cut spending revealed

CORK City Council look set to scrap the entire budget for the provision of public toilets in the city in 2022. Picture Dan Linehan.

CORK City Council look set to scrap the entire budget for the provision of public toilets in the city in 2022.

Draft expenditure cuts under the title ‘Operations Directorate’, seen by The Echo, show cost-cutting measures for a number of areas, in a bid to save €1.5m.

The €125,000 for the provision of public toilets — it was campaigned for during the Covid-19 pandemic — now looks set to be slashed to zero.

The document states that this will involve the removal of the North Main Street facility and cancellation of all other proposals, such as the planned city centre facility in the library.

Some €30,000 will be taken from the toilet-maintenance budget, with €60,000 remaining, meaning the additional facility in Bishopstown Park will not proceed as planned in 2022.

The traffic-calming budget of €100,000 is also likely to be decimated, meaning there would be no traffic-calming measures in Cork city in 2022.

There seem to be no funds for the employment of a biodiversity officer, delaying their employment by 12 months, while there will likely be no budget for the eradication of Japanese knotweed in the city in 2022, either.

The 2022 dog fouling awareness campaign also looks in doubt, as that budget is also proposed to be scrapped.

Significant cuts to local footpath repair and abandoned vehicles budgets are also likely, while there could be a 70% reduction in tree pruning and maintenance across the city in 2022 with just €37,000 of the initially proposed €137,000 likely to be available.

The mechanical and electric budget looks set to be cut by just €20,000 from €230,000 to €210,000. However, listed among the effects is that “it may impact on EPA licence and access to Tramore Valley Park, which may be restricted”.

Draft document

While this is a draft document, changes can be made to the budget for 2022 up to and including the night it is agreed.

When queried on the proposals, a spokesperson for Cork City Council said: 

“The budget process in Cork City Council is currently ongoing with the budget meeting to be held on November 15, 2021."

Crisis in funding

Solidarity councillor Fiona Ryan said there is a “crisis in funding” for local authorities across the country.

Speaking in relation to Cork City Council, Ms Ryan said: “The environment department, in particular, needs a significant increase in personnel and the reality is that through property tax, rates, and rents, it’s just not possible under the existing funding mechanisms to meet that demand and really what this [the proposed budget cuts] shows is the complete limitation and crisis in funding that exists for all local authorities around the country.

“That has to be addressed if we’re actually going to be able to provide the type of services that a city of Cork’s size and growth requires,” she said.

Ms Ryan said central Government funding, of which local authorities can avail, is often ring-fenced and that this needs to be addressed.

She said an example of the “dysfunction” of central Government funding is the CityTrees.

“We have a situation here where the Government says, ‘here’s a fund, we’re ring-fencing it for very specific things, take it or leave it’, and we can’t say, ‘well, we would like that money to hire, say, five extra people on decent wages’,” said Ms Ryan.

Sinn Féin councillor Mick Nugent said that the Covid-19 pandemic and the emergency measures taken to mitigate it have impacted the council’s finances.

“Like previous years, but particularly this year, it’s going to be a very challenging budget for city council,” said Mr Nugent.

He said that there are “ongoing meetings” to see if there are ways to alleviate some of the proposed cuts.

“We [Sinn Féin] feel that central Government should be supporting local authorities who have lost millions, including Cork city, through the effects of the pandemic.

“While some funds did come back last year, it was some time after the budget.

“We just feel that there needs to be support for local authorities to at least maintain the services,” said Mr Nugent.

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