Dublin city councillors reverse €9m in proposed cuts to homeless, disabled

Councillors reject housing rent increase and maintain rents at 2013 levels

City manager Owen Keegan had recommended the cuts following reductions in Government funding of €5.6 million for homeless services and €3.2 million for housing adaptation grants.

City manager Owen Keegan had recommended the cuts following reductions in Government funding of €5.6 million for homeless services and €3.2 million for housing adaptation grants.

Wed, Jan 15, 2014, 01:00

Dublin city councillors have reversed some €9 million in cuts and have increased funding for homeless and disabled people in the city’s 2014 budget.

A deal brokered last night between the two largest parties on the council – Labour, which holds 18 of the council’s 52 seats and Fine Gael with 12 seats – blocked proposed cuts.

City manager Owen Keegan had recommended the cuts following reductions in Government funding of €5.6 million for homeless services and €3.2 million for housing adaptation grants.

Councillors restored these amounts and added €400,000 for the homeless and €300,000 to the budget for the disabled person’s grant.

Mr Keegan last night said he had been reluctant to make up the shortfall in the grants from Government.

“If we start making good reductions from central Government there’s only one way that will go.”

However, he said he accepted councillors felt the restoration of the funds was justified. He also said the Government had agreed to increase these funds by €1 million each.

The proposed budget had provided for an increase in social housing rents by €2.3 million next year. This would have involved a 7 per cent rise in rents for council tenants from July 1st. The increase was being introduced in anticipation of a new national rents scheme, the manager said.


Rent increase
Councillors rejected this rent increase and have maintained rents at 2013 levels.

No change in the amount charged in commercial rates had been planned, but councillors introduced a 0.4 per cent reduction. New valuations for commercial rates paid by city businesses came into force on January 1st.

Ratepayers have a right to appeal these valuations and Mr Keegan had budgeted for an €8 million loss through successful appeals, but this has been reduced by €1.3 million.

A payment of €1.5 million for “operations” in relation to the as yet unbuilt Poolbeg incinerator was scrapped following confirmation that the council will terminate the contract with consultancy firm RPS at the end of this month.

The estimate in relation to the collection of unpaid non-principal private residence charges has been increased to €2.5 million. While the €200 charge no longer applies, the council is continuing to collect arrears.

Mr Keegan had estimated the collection of arrears would reap just €1 million.

The council has also included €300,000 which it expects to secure in sponsorship for the Dublin Bikes scheme and €500,000 from new rate payers.

Councillors had threatened to cut the budget of just under €30 million for the repair and maintenance of city and suburban roads, but did not last night reduce this fund.

Independent councillor Mannix Flynn welcomed the restoration of funding for the homeless and disabled but said the reversal of cuts made it clear that “needless anxiety had been placed on the most vulnerable people in the city”.

Fianna Fáil councillor Mary Fitzpatrick welcomed the improvements in the budget but said the increase in the disability grant would not result in a “real increase” because of the changes in eligibility. She added that local property tax due to the council has beenwithheld.

Speaking on behalf of Sinn Féin Councillor Micheál Mac Donncha said councillors had been “kept in the dark” by Mr Hogan about local government financing, including local property tax, the local government fund and Irish Water.