Over €25m to be spent on housing next year
A total of €26,184,715 will be spent on housing and building services by Wexford County Council in 2020, an increase of €1.1 million on the figure spent this year.
Outlining the Council's plans at the annual Budget meeting in the Chamber Head of Finance, Annette O'Neill revealed that the bulk of this money would go towards the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) and the maintenance of local authority housing units.
RAS Operations for 2020 will cost the Council an estimated €4,268,970 while maintaining housing units will result in a further €4,078,100 being spent. The latter figure is an increase on the figure adopted by the council for the 2019 budget (€3,569,741), however, RAS Operations have decreased from the €4,548,420 expected to be spent by the end of this year.
In addition, €650,954 is planned for the maintenance of traveller accommodation units and traveller accommodation management, up €74,788 on this year's budget.
Reacting to the figures, Independent Councillor Ger Carthy said the Council was still counting the cost of mistakes made in the past.
Citing an overspend of €370,000 on housing maintenance in 2014, which he attributed to Phil Hogan's Local Government Reform Act, Cllr Carthy said some of his constituents were still feeling the effects of this miscalculation.
'I know a couple who have complex needs, and because of the issue with housing maintenance and lack of funding it could be March or April before we have the money to do that (address their needs),' the Councillor said.
'We need to be upfront and realistic about it and tell people what the situation is. Really what we're doing is we're putting €500,000 extra in next year's budget and bringing it to just over €4 million, but €370,000 of that is already shot.'
With the 2020 budget allocating just €1,018,257 for homeless services, a slight fall on last year's figure, Cllrs Jim Cood and Tom Forde were keen to press the Council on current housing issues in the county.
'Am I to understand the only way to be registered homeless is if you come in and present yourself?' asked Cllr Codd. 'Can we not go and look for them? Is there anything proactive that happens here?'
In response Director of Services John Carley reminded the Aontú Councillor of the 'complex issues' which come with dealing with the homeless, adding that, at the time of the meeting, there were no homeless people in Wexford Town residing in a B&B.
Citing the excessive amount of money spent on placing people in B&Bs last year (€615,920.96) Cllr Forde urged the Council to use existing units which had lain idle for a significant period of time such as the old Garda Station.
Drawing the conversation to an abrupt end, Fine Gael's Jim Moore requested that his fellow councillors stay on topic.
'Is this going to be a budget meeting or are we going to have a rehash of the housing issue? Everyone in the chamber is concerned about the state of housing but I would like it if we could stick to the agenda,' said Cllr Moore.
Offsetting the Council's outgoings on housing and building services for 2020 is an expected income of €30,350,192 which will predominately come from rents (€16,900,000), housing loans interest and charges (€1,375,270) and government grants (€11,574,588).