County Council opts to freeze commercial rates
SOME RESPITE FOR COUNTY WEXFORD BUSINESSES
THERE was some small respite for business owners around the county on Monday as Wexford County Council once again opted to freeze commercial rates, while approving a small cut in commercial water charges.
Bin charges and local authority housing rents were also maintained at 2009 levels as the members formally approved the council's 2011 Budget, which County Manager Eddie Breen said ' has been framed in the context of hugely challenging times of terms of the economic situation, globally, nationally and locally'.
Mr Breen said the council's finances were 'severely hit' during 2010 and while they anticipated another big cut in its central government funding again next year, it was not as bad as expected.
The council took in around €20 million from central government sources this year and will take in €19.2 million next year. Mr Breen said the council was expecting a greater reduction than €800,000.
He feels that the government has recognised the ' big drain' on its resources caused by dealing with ' two severe winter storms in the one year, which is unprecedented in Co Wexford'.
He noted that the local authority is already €2 million over budget this year simply due to its efforts to keep the roads clear in January and again in recent weeks. Even without that considerable headache Mr Breen said the council was already struggling to cover pay costs for its road crews.
The agreed General Annual Rate on Valuation (formerly Rate in the Pound) was struck at 71.52, the same as the last two years., while also standing still at 2009 levels were refuse charges, water/waste services and housing rents.
The council's annual wheelie bin charges also remain the same; €368 for a 240 litre bin, €288 for a 140 litre bin and €200 for an 80 litre bin.
Mr Breen said the continuance of a ' no increase' policy in County Hall is 'placing additional strains on the finances of Wexford County Council and is only possible by continuing efforts in the area of cost reduction'.
As part of its ongoing drive to cut costs the council has also established an ' Efficiency Review Group', which meets on a weekly basis to identify and implement further savings within the local authority, this year.
There was one decrease included in the 'no increase' policy this year - a five cent (equating to four per cent) reduction in the charge for commercial water, which will come as a small, if welcome, relief for businesses in Co Wexford.
Overall, Wexford County Council plans to spend just €2 million less next year than this - €107.5 million compared to €109.5 million - and the sum total of its expenditure in 2011 will be around €18 million more than its total income, according to the figures outlined on Monday.