Councillor Pio Smith.
“There’s no money in the budget, the money just isn’t there to do that.” Sadly these words, uttered frequently by County Council officials, have become all too common because they are being starved of money by central government in Dublin and it is having very serious consequences.
In the last year or two the situation became so critical that Louth County Council does not even have enough money to fulfil its duties as landlords to its tenants, the money has run out for upkeep and running repairs to local authority homes.
So it was a slight relief to hear from Councillor Pio Smith today that Louth County Council has secured an additional €250,000 that can be allocated toward the cost of refurbishing social housing damaged as a result of the feud and help address the ongoing maintenance requests of tenants.
“The money came from a dividend payment from Irish Public Bodies, who insure council's across the country” Cllr. Smith explained. “This is a welcome payment, however it still leaves a massive gap to fill” he said.
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“Louth County Council is practically broke. The council is paying off land loans from its own resources and has been landed with an additional €650,000 damages bill to social housing because of the local feud.
“Furthermore, the Government have cut their allocation to Louth County Council by nearly €15 million over the past five years. Taken together, this leaves Louth Council in a very precarious financial position.
“There will be an election in the next 12 months and politicians and political parties need to explain how they are going to adequately fund local government. There is a fear that further cuts will take place because of the cost overrun of the children's hospital.
“Cutbacks to the council affect street cleaning, public lighting, housing maintenance, environmental services, recreation and amenity services, parks and open spaces. Put simply, the council cannot provide the services people deserve because it doesn’t have the money.
“Also, in regards to the damage to social housing caused by the feud, I believe that the proceeds of crime collected by CAB should be allocated back to the community to cover the cost of repairs to houses.
“The Government are asking people to pay extra on their property tax to cover feud related damage, while at the same time they cut the council's budget.
“I am not against raising money from a property tax per se, however I think if the property tax is to be increased then there needs to be a plan for Drogheda that would see money allocated to town development.
“There are approximately 17,000 households in Drogheda and that adds up to a significant amount of money that could do a lot for the town over a five year plan.
“However, people need to see what they would get if they agreed to pay extra on their property tax and feel that they have a sense of ownership in how the town develops.
“In the meantime, let’s all put pressure on all political parties and Independents to lobby for extra funding in Budget 2020 for the Local Authority."