Following intense discussions, Clare County Council has adopted its revenue budget for 2022.
The revenue budget provides for expenditure of €138.7m, an increase of €7.3m over the previous year. Housing and Roads combined represent 44% of this allocation.
The projected capital expenditure over three years is €409m (conditional on income, grants and matching funding).
Council Chief Executive Pat Dowling outlined that the Covid-19 pandemic has had significant impact on all sections of society. While Clare County Council benefited from Government support during 2020 and 2021, it was always going to face residual deficit challenges in an emerging post-Covid scenario. 2022 brings that challenge to a stark reality.
Over the past two years, Clare County Council has supported local businesses with close to €50m in financial supports across a number of streams in addition to responding to the inflation challenges presented across a number of cost headings during the pandemic.
We find ourselves in a unique and unprecedented financial situation. The need to continue to provide the level of public services to the people of Clare is paramount. To do this requires significant resources, which come from a limited number of sources within the local authority sector.
The charges to the businesses and citizens of Clare as set out in this budget are absolutely required if we are to continue to grow and develop our county. They are set out as minimally as possible and Clare County Council is fully aware of the additional burden that they represent.
Despite concerns over the impact on businesses, Councillors backed a 3.8% increase in rates, with Cathaoirleach Cllr PJ Ryan saying that such an increase was not taken lightly: “After considerable deliberation with all Elected Members the increase is necessary in order to present a balanced budget, maintain the level of public services in Clare and deliver on a significant capital programme.”
Budget 2022 has allocated additional resources to:
– An increase in community playground supports via the community grant scheme to address the challenges faced by community groups
– An increase in funding towards housing grants – adaptation, mobility and housing for the elderly
– Increased funding for housing maintenance, estate management and returning vacant housing stock to use
– Increase in funding over 2021 levels for the taking in charge of estates
– Increase in funding for the maintenance of public open spaces
– Further development of digital and community hubs as remote working locations across the county for the public to avail of
– Development of Vandeleur Walled Gardens
– Ongoing development of Ennis public realm improvements to Parnell Street and future scheme at O’Connell Street to Barrack Street
– Planning for Inis Cealtra Visitor Experience in East Clare
– Planning for the Kilrush/Kilkee West Clare Greenway
The budget provides for the resources required to continue to administer the various positive grant schemes available to this Council through Town & Village (T&V) Renewal, CLÁR, Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme (ORIS), Rural Regeneration and Development Fund (RRDF), Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) schemes
– Countywide parking review and investment in infrastructure
– Increasing focus on derelict sites up to and including compulsory purchase orders (CPOs).
This budget has been prepared on the basis of a 3.8% increase in the Annual Rate on Valuation (ARV) from €72.99 to €75.76. This ARV has remained unchanged for 12 years since 2009 and the considerable challenges in continuing to retain services and deliver on the expansive capital budget has required the generation of additional income for this county. The decision to draft this budget with this increase was considered extensively with members of the Corporate Policy Group and the impact on individual rate payers by Municipal District area was examined in detail.
A total of 3,430 occupied properties generated €37.2m commercial property rates in 2021, 100 properties are levied and pay in excess of €20m. This income comes from the energy generation plants, wind farms, global utility networks, national retailers and large industry. The balance of circa. €17m is levied across 96% of our properties and the average impact of this proposed increase on small and medium enterprises.
To mitigate this the Council will continue the 10% SME scheme and in 2022 introduce a new 5% scheme for the hospitality sector. Further detail on both of these schemes will be outlined on the Council’s website in the new year.
Pat Dowling, Chief Executive, Clare County Council, said: “Because of the Covid-19 crisis, 2020 and 2021 will live long in the collective memory as years of immense global damage and suffering. In Ireland, local authorities were central to the Government’s response throughout the pandemic.
“It may well be some time before there is any clarity on the overall cost of the pandemic and the financial impact on Clare County Council’s funding and our ability to continue our range of capital projects.
“The Covid-19 pandemic and the emergency measures taken to mitigate it have had a significant impact on the finances of Clare County Council. It has resulted in a reduction in, and uncertainty over, various income sources, together with increased levels of unexpected expenditures. Reduction in our income now and an expected future reduction in 2022 and beyond will have a bearing on the cashflow of Clare County Council. We must continue to deliver our range of services to the best of our ability possible.”
Full details of Budget 2022 will be available at www.clarecoco.ie