Rates cuts unlikely

The prospects of Donegal businesses getting a rates cut would seem unlikely in the wake of this week’s budget meeting. of Donegal Co. Council.

While no decisions were made on the issue - the meeting was adjourned until January- Donegal County manager Seamus Neely said council would have to be ‘very careful ‘ if cuts in income reduced services and staffing levels, already down by more than a third, any further

Some councillors spoke in favour of a rate cut, but Inishowen Fine Gael Cllr. John Ryan said councillors needed to identify where revenue to fund a cut would be found.

He suggested cutting funds for elected members, such as conference expenses, and put that toward a cut.

At the outset Mr. Neely asked councillors to consider details of the 138.298 million euro draft revenue budget for 2014.

He said he was aware that a protest grouping was threatening a rates boycott in 2014.

But he added: “The draft budget is 5.175 million euro more than the 133.123 million euro budget councillors adopted for 2013 and also 3.9 million euro more than the anticipated budget outturn for the current year.

“The budget maintains rates and water charges at 2013 levels, though a campaigning group, the Donegal Business Rates Reduction Campaign, has threatened a rates boycott if rates are not cut by 25 per cent.

“In terms of full-time equivalents, county council staff has dropped from 1,243 in March 2008 to 810 in September 2013, a 34 per cent reduction.

“I’m not suggesting for a moment that we continue with that level of downward movement,” Mr. Neely said.

He said that after the voluntary redundancy scheme the council is now administering, “we have reached a point in terms of reduction in staff numbers beyond which we would have to be very careful in moving forward.”

Mr. Neely also said the coming transfer of water services to Irish Water, “is not a negative for us”.

He said compliance demands on the council have meant a net growth in water service costs by an average of 1 million euro a year, “and that assumes that commercial charges we anticipate we collect, which doesn’t always happen”.

No decisions were made.

provision for the immediate uplift of that as we would have done”.