Dublin homeless and disabled services to be hit by cut

City manager also wants to increase council housing rents

 A homeless  man  begs  on  a  Dublin city street. Dublin City Council’s budget  proposes that   unding for homeless services will be cut by €6 million. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

A homeless man begs on a Dublin city street. Dublin City Council’s budget proposes that unding for homeless services will be cut by €6 million. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Sat, Jan 11, 2014, 08:11

Funding for homeless services has been cut by €6 million, housing adaptation grants have been cut by €3 million and social housing rents have been increased by more than €2 million in the budget proposed to run Dublin city this year.

City manager Owen Keegan will next week present a budget to the council which would impose severe reductions in money for services for the poor, elderly and disabled. However, councillors from all parties said they will refuse to pass Mr Keegan’s budget as it it stands.

Cuts of almost €10 million in grants were the determining factor in the reductions in funding for homeless services and in grants for housing adaptations for elderly and disabled people.

“There remains considerable pressure on public sector funding and consequently the level of grant funding allocated to Dublin City Council in 2014 has reduced by a value of €9.8 million,” Mr Keegan said.

Funding for the administration of homeless services has fallen from almost €46 million last year to a proposed spend just under €40 million. The cut for grants for disabled people to adapt homes is proportionally greater: it falls from more than €7.5 million to €4.4 million.

The council wants to raise rental income by €2.3 million next year. This would involve a 7 per cent rise which the council said it intends to introduce from July 1st. The increase was not being imposed to offset the council’s local property tax liability (LPT), which would be €1.7 million next year, the council said, but was being imposed in anticipation of a new national rents scheme.

This scheme was expected to come in in 2015 to equalise rents across all local authorities and would result in a 14 per cent increase in Dublin City Council’s rents, Mr Keegan said. The council was proposing to apply half of that increase from July 1st next year to soften the blow.

Independent city councillor Cieran Perry said the “pre-emptive” increase in rents was disingenuous. “A national rents scheme hasn’t even been legislated for and there is no reason to think any increase would be implemented in one go. The LPT was to be a tax on property yet Dublin City Council tenants will end up paying an increased rent on property they don’t own to finance the council’s liability.” The cut in homeless funding was “perverse” given the acknowledged increase in homelessness before Christmas.

Fianna Fáil councillor Mary Fitzpatrick said her party would be opposing the budget. “Where is the logic in increasing rent, where there are significant arrears and people are already struggling to make full payment?”

The Government was treating Dublin unfairly, she said. “If the Government had given us the funding from the local property tax as promised, it would be a very different budget.”

Labour, the largest group on the council, would not be passing Mr Keegan’s budget because of the homeless and disabled grant cuts and rent rises, group leader Dermot Lacey said.“Certainly this budget will not be the budget adopted by the Labour group.”

Fine Gael’s Mary O’Shea said her party would be working on these issues with Labour to amend the budget.

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