Dublin City Council spent €2.9m more than it took in last year, according to the 2017 annual financial statements councillors approved at their monthly meeting this month.
That’s a larger gap than the €2.5m the council had reported for the previous year. Those two years of deficits reduced the council’s reserves from €28.6m to €23.2m.
Most of the council’s income in 2017 came either from rates payments, or from grants and subsidies from the Department of Housing.
Most of the council’s spending went on services under its “housing and building” and “environmental protection” budget categories, prominently homelessness and fire services.
A total of 20,476 rate payers contributed €324.5m (37 percent) of the council’s income for 2017. Half of that came from just 426 rate payers.
For comparison, €23.1m of the council’s income in 2017 came from the local property tax. In each of the past few years, the council has voted to vary the local property tax downwards by 15 percent, forgoing about €4m in income.
In addition to the income from rates and local property tax, the council also counted as part of its funding for the year €208m in grants and subsidies from the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government. About €169m of this was targeted at housing.
The council also got €85.2m in rent from the homes it rents out (up from €80.3m in 2016), and €38.7m from parking charges and fines (up from €37m), €3.4m in planning fees (down from €4m), and €98,613 from library fees and fines (up from €96,035).
Meanwhile, development contributions – which developers have to pay to help cover the cost of public infrastructure they rely on – went up from €25.7m in 2016 to €55.8m in 2017.
The amount the council brought in by selling land and homes increased significantly. In 2016, the council reported €3.68m from “disposals” of land, and nothing from disposals of local-authority housing. In 2017 that jumped to €7.37m from land and €5.48m from housing.
The council’s 2017 financial statements noted that funds due from “government debtors” had increased from €55.9m in 2016 to €136.3m in 2017. According to a council report, “The increase is due primarily to amounts owed for Housing projects and Homeless claims.”
Of the €874.4m the council spent in 2017, €320.4m went to its “housing and building” category.
That included €130.1m on administration of homelessness services. This is more than the €119m the council had predicted in its draft 2017 budget that it would spend. In its draft budget for 2018, the council predicted a further increase in spending on homelessness services to €142.4m
Other spending on housing and building included €73.3m on maintenance and improvement of local-authority housing, €38.2m on the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) housing subsidy, and €12.2m on the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) housing subsidy. Notable here is that spending on HAP had doubled from €6.2m in 2016.
After “housing and building”, the second biggest spending category for the council in 2017 was “environmental services”. The council had projected in its draft budget that it would spend €184.7m here, but actually spent less: €183m, according to the annual financial statement.
The fire service is in this category, for some reason, and it gets most of the spending here: of €118.2m the council planned to spend on the fire service, it actually spent €119.7m. Street cleaning is the next biggest item, which was budgeted for €39.5m and got €39m.
Total council spending increased 6 percent from 2016 to 2017, but spending on the “housing and building” category increased 16 percent over that period.
By contrast, council spending on payroll increased by only about 2 percent, from €361.68m to €368.67m. Some councillors have raised concerns about the council’s ability, after crash-related staffing cuts in previous years, to provide adequate services.