Government to enter talks on Dublin City Council budget

Councillors refused to pass budget over €8.4m Irish Water rates loss

Cllr Alison Gilliland,  Minister of State for Housing Damien English,  Peter McVerry Trust’s Pat Doyle and  Cllr Michael Watters turn the sod for homes on New Street South.   Photograph: Tom Honan

Cllr Alison Gilliland, Minister of State for Housing Damien English, Peter McVerry Trust’s Pat Doyle and Cllr Michael Watters turn the sod for homes on New Street South. Photograph: Tom Honan

 

The Government has agreed to talks with Dublin City Council to solve the impasse over funding to run the city in 2020, Minister of State for Housing Damien English has confirmed.

Councillors on Monday night refused to pass a budget which includes an €8.4 million loss in rates on Irish Water properties. They agreed to defer their budget vote for a week to seek talks with the Government on the loss of funds.

Commercial rates on properties in the city owned by Irish Water amount to €23.6 million, but the Government has decided to take €8.4 million away to give to other local authorities. Council chief executive Owen Keegan said the council was not being compensated by central government despite prior assurances to the contrary.

Mr English said he understood a meeting had been sought by the council and the Department of Housing was willing to facilitate that.

“Naturally they are going to look for more money off us – that’s a process that continues every year. There has been changes with Irish Water rates over the last year but there’s other changes too. Naturally, we’ll tease through all that.”

‘Forgone revenue’

However, he noted the councillors had decided to reduce the local property tax charge for homeowners.

“If you take this year alone that is the equivalent of €8 million at least if not more in forgone revenue so there’s choices to be made when it comes to budgets.”

Mr English defended the record of local authorities in building houses following reports in some media the Government was considering stripping local authorities of the power to build social homes.

“That’s not what anyone wants to do,” he said. “Local authorities are the main provider. And just to be clear, if you look at what they’ve achieved over the last couple of years, we were at a situation at the start of Rebuilding Ireland that the local authority system throughout the country was delivering less than 500 houses. That was in 2015. This year, there will be over 6,000 houses delivered by local authorities – they are on track next year for 7,500 direct builds.”

There were “difficulties” with some large sites which “get stuck in the system for a long number of years”, he said.

O’Devaney Gardens

“Mr Murphy and myself want to work with local authorities on to see how best can we progress these.”

Mr English was speaking after concerns arose in relation to the deal agreed by councillors for the redevelopment of O’Devaney Gardens with a mix of private social and affordable purchase housing. Mr English said it was his understanding that issue had been resolved.

“My understanding of O’Devaney Gardens is they [the city council] voted through the deal that was agreed by councillors two or three years ago when they sat down with our department and our Minister.”

Suggestions of purchasing any additional homes for an affordable rental scheme was “a separate discussion” that would not hinder the development of the site.

Mr English was speaking at an event to mark the start of construction of eight apartments by the Peter McVerry Trust to provide permanent homes for homeless people. The apartments on New Street South near St Patrick’s Cathedral are expected to be completed by December 2020.