DESPITE THE tough economic climate Dundalk Town Council delivered good news for the town's hard-pressed traders and motorists with reductions on pay parking and commercial rates in the annual budget adopted last week Tuesday. Pay parking is to drop by 30c to €1 an hour and the commercial rate has been reduced by 1 per cent to 65.83c in the euro.
Councillors rejected a proposal to introduce a €12.50 permit for residents living within the payparking zone.
Presenting the budget, County Manager Ms Joan Martin said it would allow for a total expenditure €27,327,886.
There had, she said, been a continued reduction in the council's budget over the last number of year sand 2012 was no exception. Despite that, she felt that there had been considerable achievements in Dundalk over the last number of years.
The reduction in staff numbers by 200 across the county and 40 in Dundalk had softened the blow of the reduction in grants. There had also been a huge efficiency drive undertaken as part of the Croke Park and the Sustaining Progress Agreements, resulting in savings of €300,000 in areas such as energy.
The restructuring of the fire service had been a big undertaking and they now had an improved countywide service.
Thanking the staff for their continued efforts, co-operation and flexibility, she refuted criticism of the public sector which appeared in the media.
The council had decided on reducing the rates and payparking as they were very aware of calls from the retail sector in the town centre to look at these issues. She hoped that this combination of measures would help retaillers and the wider rate-paying community across the whole down.
Councillors also heard that there had been a 5% reduction in the local government grant of €341,323 on last year's allocation.
While councillors broadly welcomed the budget, they were critical of the proposal to introduce a €12.50permit charge per vehicle for residents living within the pay parking area, despite being told that it was as high as €50 in Dublin. They were told by officials that if the charge wasn't introduced, savings of €3,500 would have to be found elsewhere. After a short adjournment, Cllr Mark Dearey proposed that the charge not be included in the budget and the money taken out of the allocation under the roads programme.
The majority of councillors also agreed that their conference allocation should be diverted to community funding, amounting to €22,035.
The budget as presented was adopted by nine votes to three, with the Sinn Fein councillors voting against.
Speaking afterwards, Cllr Jennifer Green, said that the officials had put together a very good budget under the financial circumstances.
' They have been given less money because the government is giving money to the banks rather than local authorities. That is why we voted against it - we were looking at the bigger picture. I think the cards the council were dealt were extremely unfair.'