Leitrim County Council will be “standing still from now ‘til the end of the year” as they try to reduce the €1.3 million budget deficit.
County Manager Jackie Maguire gave a “stark presentation” of the third quarter financial report to members at the council meeting on Monday, September 3. Ms Maguire outlined that the council estimated they would be €1.3 million over budget, by the end of this year.
As a result of the massive deficit, “Services will be severely curtailed for the remainder of the year” while councillors were warned that “serious choices will have to be made about core services” in 2013.
“All discretionary spending has stopped” Jackie Maguire stated. The “discretionary spending” includes road works and maintenance, council house maintenance and any other un-necessary spending. “There are three months left and we can’t allow any more deficits,” she stated. The council must pay fixed items such as staff wages, heating, lighting and funds to statutory bodies.
Works which featured on the Road Works Programme 2012 will continue but any additional maintenance or work will be refused. Cllr Sinead Guckian said it is “unacceptable” no road maintenance will take place for the rest of the year.
Through questions from Cllr Sinead Guckian, it was ascertained that council outdoor staff will continue to be paid, but there will be no money for new materials. Cllr Gerry Reynolds said “it is crazy that outdoor staff will be working with no materials.” He said any business knows you have to cut down on labour costs.
The large deficit this year is a result of €980,000 paid in lump sums to retiring employees. There were also overruns in other areas, drops in income and the Government have “withheld” €291,000 from the Council because 36% of Leitrim residents have yet to pay the Household Charge.
€100,000 in savings have been made by Leitrim County Council this year, including €30,000 for no training courses, €10,000 from not holding the Sean Mac Diarmada Summer School, €10,000 on scraping the revised guidelines for rural housing and €50,000 funding for transferring staff to work on capital projects. The council said all money guaranteed to voluntary and community groups this year will be paid, but going forward “no reassurances” can be given on any spending.
To help alleviate the huge overspend, Leitrim County Council will begin a rigorous collection of all money owed to them this year. Jackie Maguire told members the council will now “re-prioritise time to increasing income” which means a more “vigorous” collection of moneys owed for water, rents, rates, fire charges and the household charge. The council will be setting up meetings with customers to organise payment plans and standing orders to try and increase the council’s much needed income.
A review on household charges and funds withheld is expected in October, it is understood if Leitrim’s level of compliance is increased, that the Government could release €291,000 to them.