Leitrim County Council’s General Purpose Grant for 2012 has been slashed by €1.165 million due to the fact that only 61% of Leitrim’s households have paid the Household Charge to date.
In a move announced by the Department for Environment, Community and Local Affairs last week, Leitrim County Council has confirmed that they have been official notified of the reduction.
A spokesperson for the Council noted that the reduction was “based on a 61% level of compliance achieved in relation to the Household Charge collection in Leitrim. 25% of this adjustment (€291,318) is to be applied to the Quarter three General Purpose Grant payment which is due for payment shortly”.
The spokesperson acknowledged that this “very serious cut in funding is currently being assessed and will be the subject of discussion with the Elected Members”.
“Obviously we would encourage those who have not yet paid the household charge to come forward and pay the charge as soon as possible,” added the spokesperson, noting the charge could be paid at Leitrim County Council’s offices or through www.householdcharge.ie
However Sinn Féin councillor Martin Kenny has described Phil Hogan’s decision to withhold millions of euros from Local Councils as “bully boy tactics”. He said that “imposing more cuts on local government will have a serious impact on the provision of services across the board in Leitrim.”
Cllr Kenny said, “Last December the Department of the Environment told Leitrim County Council what the 2012 allocation from the local government fund would be. The Council agreed the annual estimates on this basis. At no stage were we told that this funding was dependent on the collection of the household charge. Now half way through the year Phil Hogan is saying he is going to immediately withhold these funds from the Council, which will have a serious impact on the provision of essential services for hundreds of thousands of families. This is an utter disgrace and the fact that he id this on the day that the Dáil is going into recess makes it even worse. Once again Phil Hogan is trying to avoid any public scrutiny of his disastrous policies.”
Cllr Gordon Hughes agreed the cut will cause serious difficulties for an already stretched Leitrim County Council.
“It is a tribute to County Manager, Jackie Maguire and the senior staff of Leitrim County Council that we have, to date, minimised the impact on services but a cut such as this makes it inevitable that services will be seriously affected,” he acknowledged.
“Our hands are tied. Because of the Croke Park agreement we cannot touch public sector pay or pensions and that is where a large part of the funding for Leitrim County Council goes. The only option we have is to cut services and that is something no Council should face,” he said.
The Fine Gael Councillor argued it would be better to reward Councils such as Leitrim which have kept a tight reign on their budgets despite cutbacks and penalise those which have “let their finances go” instead of imposing cuts like this.