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Local councils: Fire and emergency budget slashed by 37pc

Paul Melia and Treacy Hogan

Published 08/12/2010 | 05:00

LOCAL authorities will be forced to scrimp and save for at least two years after their funding was reduced by more than €60m yesterday.

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City and county councils will have to cut back on essential services such as winter road gritting, street cleaning and providing libraries until new sources of income come on stream from 2012.

The Department of the Environment has reduced the Local Government Fund to €164m next year, a €62m reduction (28pc) from the €226m allocated for 2010.

Councils have also been ordered to cut back on community schemes, with funding reduced by half to just €3m.

Another €2.3m has been taken from the local authority library and archive services, which is down to €7.6m -- a cut of 15pc.

The budget for fire and emergency services has been significantly reduced, down 37pc to €12.1m.

The swingeing cuts announced yesterday mean that some councils will struggle to make ends meet over the coming years.

Local government is largely reliant on motor-tax receipts and central government to provide its funding.

The system is being changed so local taxes such as a property tax and water charges will make up the bulk of their income, but these will not be introduced until 2012 and 2014 at the earliest.

A flat-rate €100-per-home property tax will come into force in 2012, but not until the following year will the system be fully rolled-out -- yielding €530m in a full year.

Water charges will be implemented when meters are installed in every home in the country, but this is unlikely before 2014, and the bulk of the tax will have to be spent on upgrading our water treatment plants.

The State faces the prospect of massive fines from the EU if it fails to meet minimum drinking water standards, but funding for upgrades was also cut yesterday by 10pc, down to €435m.

The Environmental Protection Agency had its funding cut by 27pc, down to €19.7m from €27m, and the money available to make old landfills safe has been cut from €4m to just €1m.

The department last night said that 106 recommendations contained in the Local Government Efficiency Review Group report would result in savings of €511m over the coming years.

"Implementation of the report's findings and recommendations will contribute to lowering local authority cost bases and thereby improving their financial position going forward," it said.

Irish Independent

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