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At a meeting on 25 November, councillors voted to increase rates on commercial businesses, increase the East Link toll, and increase parking charges, as they passed the city’s budget for the coming year.
“There’s been funding constraints which means that a lot of our funding has been at stable or falling levels even,” said Kathy Quinn, the council’s head of finance, at the meeting.
“We’ve a rising cost of services, inflation has been increasing, and the demand for services from the public is more specified and of a higher value than in previous years,” she said.
Councillors had earlier deferred the budget.
The ruling group had tried to put pressure on the Housing, Planning and Local Government Minister Eoghan Murphy, and Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, to grant the council €8.4 million to cover income lost through changes to how rates for Irish Water properties are distributed.
But that didn’t happen and the clock was ticking down. In a letter to Lord Mayor Paul McAuliffe, of Fianna Fáil, Minister Donohoe said that the change was a small part of the council’s budget for next year. (It’s set at €1.026 billion.)
“This should not be, and with your leadership will not be, the cause of any increased charges or decreased services,” Donohoe wrote.
Some councillors said that it wasn’t credible to say that with less money, they wouldn’t have to do either of those. “It’s disgraceful,” said Fianna Fáil’s Daithí de Róiste.
Others questioned how believable the debate between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael was in the council chamber, given their confidence-and-supply arrangement in government at the national level.
People Before Profit’s Hazel de Nortúin felt she was watching jestering like in the Abbey Theatre, she said.
People might criticise Fine Gael, she said. But “it’s Fianna Fáil who have propped them up over the past few years”.
A draft budget from Chief Executive Owen Keegan suggested that councillors should increase rents on social tenants, but councillors rejected that idea. Instead, they voted to increase rates on commercial businesses by 2.7 percent.
Fianna Fáil’s Deirdre Heney and the Green Party’s Neasa Hourigan – on behalf of the ruling Dublin Agreement group – also put forward other changes to the draft budget.
Heney of Fianna Fáil said their proposal was to increase discretionary funding up to €3 million, and to drop the vacancy refund rate – the percentage of rates that owners of vacant commercial properties get reimbursed – from 40 percent to 25 percent.
Heney said their changes would also put €100,000 more into collecting rental arrears from tenants in social homes.
They also put aside money to explore the remunicipalisation of waste. For cyclists, 20 percent of the road maintenance budget would go towards improving and maintaining cycling infrastructure, she said.
At the meeting, Sinn Féin councillors said that those in the ruling Dublin Agreement group shouldn’t vote through the budget, and should instead press Minister Eoghan Murphy harder for the money that councillors say they should get.
Chris Andrews, a Sinn Féin councillor, said the ruling coalition had “effectively rolled over and had their tummy tickled” by Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe.
Fine Gael councillors, who didn’t back the budget, said they were against the move to increase rates.
It’s a time of great uncertainty for businesses in the city, said Fine Gael’s James Geoghegan. “We’re once again attacking businesses, small businesses, who are going to be severely hit by this proposed increase.”
On the night, 35 councillors voted in favour of the amended budget, with 25 against.