CUTBACKS to the Local Government fund for County Waterford are not as severe as previously feared, however Minister Phil Hogan is still refusing to release the third quarterly allowance of €507,000 and will reduce the amount available in the final quarter if more home owners don’t stump up payment for the household charge.
The news was greeted by some relief at last week’s meeting of Waterford County Council, which came two weeks after councillors abandoned their meeting at the start of the month such was their fury at the possibility of the council losing €2m in funding.
After seeking clarification from Minister Phil Hogan, management at the County Council learned that the adjustment made to the General Purpose Grant payment in Quarter 3 is confirmed and will not be reviewed further. No reason has been provided for why this amount of money is being withheld.
Waterford County Manager Denis McCarthy said that this meant that the €507,000 due to them for the third quarter would not be handed over. In respect of the final quarter payment, Waterford County Council is still at risk of losing another €90,000.
The monies, which are to be paid in November, will not be affected if over 65% of people comply with the household charge. For county and city councils with compliance rates of between 60% and 65% a deduction of 0.5% of the initial General Purpose Allocation will be made, which will locally amount to €90,000. So far, 61 % have paid the charge in the County.
Mr McCarthy added that spending will be prioritised for areas deemed most in need, with county roads earmarked for works.
Cllr James Tobin said that no matter how many people pay the charge, Waterford would still be left short vital funding.
“We are not getting €507,000 back no matter what. That tells people out there that you were right. Even if they pay the county will be left short. Where is that money gone to? I can hazard a guess that it’s gone to O’Reilly’s big hole in the health service. It’s a disgrace. They can glamourise it anyway they like, we are still down €600,000.”
Cllr Michael J. O’Ryan said that even if there was 100% compliance at this stage the County would still be fined, while Cllr Brendan Mansfield labelled the whole thing a “farce” and said it was bullyboy tactics by the Minister when he encouraged councils to follow the lead of the council in Clare when it came to delaying student grants for those who had not paid the charge.
He said there was a lot of anger amongst people who had paid the charge out of fear only to find out that cuts are still to be made in the area.
“The knife has still gone in, not as deep as we thought, but to the value of €600,000. It’s gone in to bail out the bondholders,” he added.