County gets €113.8m to work with in 2009
MEMBERS and management of Wicklow County Council sat late into Monday evening last week to thrash out the finer details of the 2009 budget for the county.
A total of €113.8m is the estimated amount which Wicklow County Council will have to spend in the coming year.
A major reduction in Local Government funding by €1.39m to €20.58m meant that a significant amount of services within Council departments would be reduced or even cut.
With the inevitable outcome that certain services must face cutbacks, members were not willing to accept the county manager’s proposed commercial rates increase of 4.9 per cent.
It was agreed that an increase of 1.9 per cent is as much as businesses would be able to afford in the current economic climate.
Council Cathaoirleach Derek Mitchell told the Wicklow People that ‘at time of poor trading the Council could not ask business for such a tax increase’.
Cllr. Mitchell added that at a time when many in the private sector are losing jobs and taking pay reductions this could be achieved by saving €500,000 in central overheads and €40,000 in councillor training.
‘I am happy to accept the salary of the Cathaoirleach bring frozen to set an example. These cuts allow the rate reduction, €100,000 to keep Avoca Recycling Centre open and allows and extra €25,000 for library books,’ he said.
Due to a Government requirement, Wicklow County Council will be expected to cut staff levels by three per cent.
This will be accommodated by not filling vacancies and by reviewing all contracts which are due to expire in 2009.
Roads will see a drastic reduction in funding in 2009 with the upgrade of the N11 from Barndarrig to The Beehive off the agenda for the foreseeable future.
Councillors voiced their disgust at this news adding that a proposed upgrade of the dual carriageway sections to motorway could not possible go ahead from a road safety aspect.
‘Unfortunately the review of speed limits cannot be implemented as to put up new speed limit signs will cost €150k and this is not available. I asked that the Kilmacanogue northbound lane increase from 60 to 80 kph should go ahead and hopefully it can,’ said Cllr. Mitchell.
Environmental Services received unfair treatment in the budget estimates with proposals to reduce opening hours across the county at centres and in some cases full closure.
Members were united in the opinion that money could be realigned to allow the Avoca centre in particular to stay open although opening hours will be reduced.
Despite concern from a number of council members it was agreed that water rates will be increased by 24 per cent.
Initial proposals to cut the €25,000 sponsorship of Wicklow GAA were replaced by an agreement to move €11,500 from Wicklow Uplands in order to offer a certain amount of support to Gaelic Games in the county.
Councillor Derek Mitchell.