KERRY County Council is to lose 10 per cent of its government funding because 30 per cent of households have so far failed to pay the household charge.
This week, County Manager Tom Curran was forced to seek approval from councillors for a reduction of €1.33 million in spending, following a directive from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
The directive from Minister Phil Hogan's department, stated that taking into account the county's household charge compliance level, the Council's 2012 allocation from the Local Government Fund could be cut by as much as €1.688 million by year's end.
At Monday's meeting Tom Curran spoke of his frustration at being forced to adjust a Budget that was passed in January. The county manager said in making the adjustment he had "to be mindful of the people who had paid the Household Charge that they would not be negatively affected by cuts". KERRY County Council is facing a reduction in government funding of almost €1.7 million and has been forced to make cuts to basic services as a result.
A directive issued by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has indicated that the Council's Local Government Fund allocation could be cut by as much as €1,668,174 (8.8 per cent) this year.
Cuts have been made across a wide range of areas including housing, roads and transportation, water services, development management, environmental services, and recreation and amenity departments.
Minister Phil Hogan's department has justified the reduced funding based on the level of household charge compliance in Kerry and the overall level of funds available in the government's Local Government Fund.
In Kerry, almost 70 per cent of householders have paid the controversial household charge, the fourth highest compliance rate of all local authority areas. However, complaint householders must now suffer the same reduction in services as those yet to pay.
At the September monthly meeting of the council on Monday, management sought county councillors' approval for a Budget adjustment of €1.33 million in order to balance their books for 2012.
Councillors narrowly passed the adjustments proposed by County Manager Tom Curran. The result saw 11 councillors voting for, 11 against, with five abstentions. The cuts were passed on the casting vote of Mayor Terry O'Brien.
The adjustment proposal was vigorously opposed by Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin councillors, while only one Labour member, Cllr Gillian Wharton-Slattery, voted against adopting the adjusted budget.
Councillors did manage, however, to overturn a proposal to reduce funding for the general maintenance of non-national roads this winter by €90,000. Following strong protests from a number of councillors, the county manager agreed not to go ahead with the proposed cut.
Tom Curran told the chamber that there was an obligation on him to make necessary adjustments to Budget 2012.
"As Manager, there is an obligation on me to make necessary adjustments to Budget 2012, where anticipated income is not realised. This would be normal practice each year," Mr Curran said.
The county manager said that he was "as frustrated as the members that had passed the Budget in good faith", but that "things had happened that were outside of the Council's control".
Mr Curran defended Kerry County Council's record in balancing their books but issued a stark warning that the Local Authority could be facing more severe cuts in government funding in 2013.
"We have been prudent and have made difficult decisions to make sure that we are not in the red. I like to think that we as a council will continue with that pragmatic approach," he said.
"2013 will be even more difficult. Early indications are that the government allocation will be even less," Mr Curran warned.