Deputy Martin Kenny (SF)
Speaking in the Dáil last week about funding for local government, Sinn Féin TD, Martin Kenny, said there is a real crisis facing local authorities and said he had been told that additional funding of at least €500m over the next two years will be needed to address the current shortfall.
Deputy Kenny highlighted the issue with Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, Peter Burke, TD noting: “My constituency is a very rural one. In recent years, even Sligo County Council has been unable to help people out and pay housing grants that are normally supplied in most councils because it has no discretionary fund in place.”
Deputy Kenny noted that his home area, governed by Leitrim County Council, is in a similar position and is under serious pressure to continue the provision of vital services with limited means, as are all rural local authorities.
“The reality is that 80% of the fund the Government gives to local authorities must be used for items that are already earmarked. Therefore, they have very little discretion in spending that fund,” Deputy Kenny pointed out in the Dáil.
“I spoke to the chief executive officer of Leitrim County Council, Lar Power, and he told me that in his estimation the local authorities would need to get an increase of €300m in next year's budget and probably a further €200m in the following year to deal with the crisis they are facing now.”
Deputy Kenny said that the fact that many businesses impacted by Covid are now closed and, as a result, not paying rates, is central to the problem.
“In addition, many people in local authority housing are really stretched to pay their rents.
“Many people also need other business services but they cannot get any money from them,” he added.
“Even parking charges in towns are not bringing in money. The Minister of State will understand that this is a real crisis,” stressed Deputy Kenny.
He called on the Government to “make a real effort to try to deal with this funding crisis” for local authorities so they can ensure the continuation of vital services within the communities they served.