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Tuesday November 25th 2014

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Council Approves Commercial Rates Freeze In Co. Limerick

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Members of Limerick County Council today approved the seventh consecutive freeze on commercial rates in County Limerick.

Mr. Conn Murray, Manager of Limerick Local Authorities said the decision to maintain one of the lowest commercial rate multipliers in the country demonstrated the Council’s support for the business community.

Addressing the Limerick County Council’s Statutory Budget 2013 meeting at County Hall in Dooradoyle, Mr. Murray noted that the additional allocation of €100k towards promoting and marketing County Limerick during 2013 would help to ensure the County remains an attractive location for new and existing investment.

He explained: “The increase in the number of vacant properties locally due to examinership, receivership, liquidation and closedowns brings to the fore the very challenging environment in which local businesses currently operate. This is further highlighted by the fact that the inflation rate increased by 2.59% for 2011 and a further 2.10% is likely for 2012. Therefore, so to ensure that Limerick continues to be an attractive location for new and existing investment, I have proposed a freeze in the commercial rate for 2013.”

Mr. Murray told the Council’s Elected Members: “2012 has proved to be an exceptionally challenging year and we have continued to apply prudent expenditure controls, strengthened our revenue collection measures, with the establishment of a debt collection unit, and are constantly monitoring our processes and work practices with a view to achieving further savings.”

“The main focus in 2013 will be to continue to deliver services as efficiently and effectively as possible under extremely difficult circumstances. The economic climate that currently exists is putting increasing pressure on the Council’s income base, both grant-aid and locally sourced income.  Our expectations with this in mind must be realistic. The Council has engaged and will continue to engage in reducing costs and achieving better value for money. To date this has been achieved without significant impact on services but there can be no guarantee that this can be sustained, due to the increasingly significant reduction in resources. On this basis, the Council will be availing of the Community Employment Schemes during 2013,” he added.

The total estimated expenditure included in the Council’s Budget for 2013 amounts to €110.36 million, a reduction of €3.427 million (3%) on the adopted figure for 2012. This level of expenditure will be financed from the Goods & Services (34%), Commercial Rates (26%), Grants & Subsidies (22%), Local Government Fund Grant (16%) and Pension Levy (1%).

In outlining the key objectives during 2013, Mr, Murray said the Council will minimise impact on communities dependent on Council support, continue support for those in need of home assistance grants, and maintain one of the lowest commercial rate multipliers in Ireland’s 34 local authority areas. He reaffirmed the Council’s commitment to sustaining a level of investment in the County’s roads and water infrastructure, as well as sustaining employment and services in line with available resources.

Meanwhile, Mr. Murray said that Limerick County Council will continue to implement internal cost savings and efficiency measures, in accordance with The Public Service Agreement.  He continued: “Staff numbers have decreased by 26% (871 to 645) since 2006. This trend is likely to continue into 2013. I would like to thank the staff of Limerick County Council at all levels for their commitment in ensuring the delivery of work programmes in difficult circumstances.”

Commenting on the merger of Limerick County Council and Limerick City Council in June 2014, Mr. Murray said the move will provide unique challenges for the members, management and staff of both Local Authorities.

“I will continue to develop and support the structures necessary to facilitate the transition to the new single authority. I will be encouraging closer co-operation between both Councils thereby enabling efficiencies to be achieved through economies of scale. The achievement of efficiencies and cost savings will help to offset some part of the income reductions, however there is a limit to what can be achieved and therefore services will have to be prioritised within the available funding,” he concluded.

Commenting on the Council’s Budget, Cllr. Jerome Scanlan, Cathaoirleach of Limerick County Council, welcomed the commitment to continue to fund vital community services and initiatives during 2013.

Cllr. Scanlan stated: “In spite of the increasing fiscal constraints faced by Limerick County Council, it is reassuring to see that the Council remains committed to investing in services that impact on the day-to-day lives of the people of Limerick.”

Limerick County Council Budget 2013

Capital Expenditure:

The Council Budget has made provision for:
-    Improvements at the R518 and the N20 at Rourke’s Cross, Cherrygrove bend and for local widening following the withdrawal of the M20 from the statutory process. This strategy has been developed which can address deficiencies with the existing N20 alignment;
-    Funding to complete Phase I of the realignment of the N21 at Barnagh, and for commencement of Phase II, should funding materialise;
-    Proposed improvement of the R513 junction with the N24 at Caherconlish;
-    Completion of the works on the N69 at Bolane Bends and for proposed junction improvements of the R521 with the N69 at Horan’s Cross;
-    Continuation of the low cost safety improvement scheme on National Roads, and for the ongoing costs of the Mid West Road Design Office;
-    On Regional and other roads – it is proposed to continue on a Constraints Study for the NCW Distributor Road, provide for the realignment of sections of the R521, continue works on Golf Links Road and to advance the Mungret Village Plan;
-    Works to advance the Smarter Travel Agenda, committing to green routes, cycle paths and park and ride;
-    Urgent repair to structures, mainly bridges, many of which require significant works.

Road Transport & Safety

Grant allocations will not be notified until early 2013 and a detailed ‘Roads’ report will be prepared and presented to Council at the February 2013 meeting of Limerick County Council. Despite indications that the Non-National Road Grant allocations for 2013 will be reduced by 10%, Limerick County Council has increased its contribution to local and regional roads by 8% over the projected 2012 outturn.

Housing and Building

The proposed total Revenue Expenditure for Housing & Building is €11.677m. The construction programme for 2013 is dependent on central government grant allocations. The housing capital programme 2013-2015 makes provision for a potential spend of €8.050m with the primary focus the provision of accommodation by the Voluntary Housing sector. Funding for Housing Adaptation grants has been maintained at the same level as the initial allocation in 2012. Provision is also made for Traveller and Homeless Services in the 2013 Budget. It is anticipated that Capital funding of €600,000 will be made available in 2013 for energy efficiency / refurbishment works to vacant County Council houses. In 2013, estate management supports and tenancy enforcement will be maintained in conjunction with the County’s active residents groups.

Water Services

The provision of capital water and waste water projects in County Limerick is based on the national water services investment programme (WSIP). During 2012, contracts were signed for Kilmallock Sewerage Scheme upgrade and Mungret Sewerage Scheme upgrade. The contract for Patrickswell Sewerage Scheme will be signed in the coming weeks. The Council has advertised during the year for consultants to prepare designs for the upgrade of Castletroy Waste Water Treatment Plant and Newcastle West Sewerage Scheme and will be advertising shortly for consultants to prepare designs for Abbeyfeale Sewerage Scheme upgrade. In addition, a construction contract has been awarded for the Mains Rehabilitation Programme in the amount of €1.5m.

In accordance with the Government’s Water Services Pricing Policy, the unit cost of water in 2013 is €1.25 per cubic metre (Metered Water), €1.45 per cubic metre (Metered Waste), and €200 per meter per annum for each of first two meters and €100 per meter per annum for any subsequent meters, per customer account (Standing Charge per Meter).

Other Key Points Of Budget 2013
-    €6.34m is budgeted for the operation of the Fire Service and for Fire Prevention initiatives in 2013.
-    The Council will continue to operate its Business Support Unit (BSU).
-    Grass cutting and the general maintenance of 345 acres of open space located in 353 separate locations throughout the county will be continued.
-    Financial support for the operation of the refuse collection waiver scheme, the litter warden service, The Waste Enforcement Team, litter control initiatives and the street cleaning service.
-    The operation of a Contribution Scheme providing financial assistance to a number of specialist interests in tourism, arts and cultural projects and facilities will be continued during 2013.
-    A sum of €2.9m is allowed for the operation of the Library and Limerick Studies Service in 2013. A book fund of €106k will be provided for the purchase of adult and children’s book stock and audio visual materials.
-    €2.35m is being provided in 2013 to cover the costs associated with pollution control activities such as Environmental Monitoring (including Laboratory) and Pollution Reduction.
-    The annual contribution to the Limerick / Clare Energy Agency will be continued.
-    Continued financial and technical support for the Regional Waste Management Office
-    Provision has been made to continue support for the Limerick In Bloom Competition and priming Grants scheme, as support mechanisms for the National TidyTowns Competition.
-    Continued operation of the Burial Ground Maintenance Priming Grants scheme.
-    €150k is allocated toward the operation of the County’s Civic Amenity Centres and Bring Bank network.
-    The sum of €318k is provided for the operation of the county arts service with an estimated income of €79k.
-    The allocation for water safety in 2013 is similar to that included in the 2012 Budget.  Provision is being made for continuation of the seasonal lifeguard service at Glin and Kilteery Piers for the June weekend and the months of July and August. The budget also allows for the maintenance of the network of ringbuoys throughout the county.
-    In 2013, County Limerick Local Sports Partnership (LSP) will continue the provision of education and training to 600+ coaches / administrators and teachers in the various sporting clubs and schools throughout the county.
-    Financial support will be provided to regional tourism initiatives such as the Shannon Conference Bureau, Limerick Communications Office and the Limerick.ie website. Support by way of technical, marketing or financial assistance will also be provided to a number of local bodies and projects such as Adare Heritage Centre, Foynes Aviation Museum, Lough Gur Heritage Centre, Kilmallock Tourism and to walking and cycling trails. The Gathering Ireland will also be supported.

-ENDS-

Note to Editor:
For further information please contact Mark Dunphy of Dunphy PR on 086-8534900 or media@dunphypr.com