Property tax rise brings extra €1.15m for local services

Could LPT coffers be used to secure a Westlife concert for Limerick in 2020?

WESTLIFE concerts, improving the quality of public lighting, refurbishing playgrounds, and investing in social housing maintenance were some of the items on councillors’ shopping list as they voted to increase the Local Property Tax (LPT) for 2020 by an additional 7.5 per cent on 2019 levels.

At this Monday’s full meeting of Limerick City and County Council, an increase in the LPT to ring-fence an additional €1.15 million for new plant machinery, urban and rural renewal across Limerick and the General Municipal Allocation for elected representatives was passed.

The additional money will be spent on new plant machinery for the upkeep of Limerick’s roads including two velocity patchers, a tele-handler, four lorries which can be adapted for use as salt and grit spreaders during the winter months, three road sweepers and tar sprayers.

Extra funding will also be provided to tackle dereliction and vacancies, public realm improvements and matching funding required for large scale transformational regeneration projects under the URDF and RRDF government schemes, which there will also be an increase in the amount of money for councillors under the General Municipal Allocation.

Limerick homeowners will see a small change in their LPT bills, with an increase of between 13 and 45 cent, after councillors voted in favour of the additional 7.5 per cent hike over 2019 levels.

The LPT in Limerick accounts for around 11 per cent of the Council’s budget income. The other main contributors are Commercial Rates (33 per cent), Grants and Subsidies (26 per cent), Goods and Services (30 per cent).

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Proposing the 15 per cent increase, Labour Party councillor Joe Leddin suggested that the resources now be put in place to open the Jim Kemmy Municipal Museum at weekends. He also called for a fund to be ring-fenced for concerts in the city before pointing out that Westlife are doing concerts in Cork and Dublin next summer.

Fine Gael councillor Liam Galvin, who seconded the increase, said that festivals are a big part of rural life and called for funds to be divided up equally for all districts. Cllr Galvin also wants playgrounds in County Limerick to receive new investment.

“They are in dire need of refurbishment,” he claimed.

Fianna Fáil councillor Kieran O’Hanlon took the view that more needs to be spent to promote tourism in Limerick City. He also called for more money to be spent on fixing footpaths in the city.

“We are always hearing from councillors in the county about the great work being done to fix footpaths. Well, in the city where I live schoolchildren have to walk out in the middle of the road because there is no footpath,” he told councillors.

Party colleague Francis Foley felt the Council needed to look at investing in maintaining it housing stock.

Cllr Jerome Scanlan (FG) agreed and said it was over 20 years since maintenance was carried out on some of its older houses in Newcastle West.

Independent councillor Emmett O’Brien felt that more now needs to be done to make savings on the local authority’s  €1 billion annual budget.

“It drives me bonkers the money that is wasted on consultants and schemes that go nowhere. How about taking a new approach and look at how we can save taxpayers money?” he asked the council executive.

Independent councillor Frankie Daly took a different view.

“The proof is in the pudding. We have got to get the money from somewhere. It is very important if we want to get more stuff done. We really need this money,” he insisted.

Sinn Féin councillor John Costelloe voted against the increase alongside Cllrs Sharon Benson (SF) and Elisa O’Donovan (SD).

“Not all parts of the city are benefitting. Parts of Ballynanty are like the Helmand Province,” he commented.