Wexford local authorities face a very difficult exercise due to the impact of Covid-19 and the end of government support, members of Wexford District Council have been warned.
Wexford County Council Finance Officer Annette O ‘Neill painted a disturbing picture by presenting a draft budget plan for 2022 to local councilors, including provision for a general municipal allocation in the district of Wexford of â¬ 400,000, the same level as last year.
The GMA is the amount that the county council gives to district authorities for spending on secondary roads, community initiatives, recreation areas, and tourism and local improvement projects outside of the district’s annual work program. municipal.
Ms O’Neill spoke of âthe serious difficulties we have encountered in establishing a budget for Council for 2022, amid uncertainty over the financial capacity of Wexford County Council to deliver a balanced statutory budget for the year, and growing concern about what the economy will look like in 2022 once government support to businesses and local communities is phased out and withdrawn â.
“The buoyancy of our income for 2022 in the Council’s main sources of funding – local property tax and commercial rates – is not great and the negative buoyancy observed relative to many other sources of income in the annual budget presents a challenge. to repeat these levels in 2022. These two factors add to the difficulties encountered in presenting a budget for 2022.
“The continued threat posed by the increase in the number of Covids will not alleviate the pressure of the challenges we face as we prepare to finalize the draft budget for members to consider on November 29.
âTherefore, we remain in an unpredictable financial situation with the additional risk that will be presented by the gradual reduction in government support to the Council and the unpredictability of the performance of local revenue sources over the coming year. “
Ms O Neill said the focus will be on protecting the existing level of service and that this “will likely involve risks and challenges in terms of estimating income levels that provide funding for this purpose”.
Cllr George Lawlor asked how much parking revenue has fallen in 2021, saying the city of Wexford will suffer disproportionately.
Ms O Neill said parking revenue is currently 53% of the budget and will not reach the expected annual amount of 2.9 million euros by the end of the year.
“We could lose 800,000 â¬ by the end of the year. Last year we filed a claim with the government for loss of income and we got around 4 million euros, but this is not so sure this year. “
Cllr. Lawlor asked if the County Managers Association was pressuring the government for continued support and the CFO told him that every effort was being made to get what they could.
“But that said, the reduction in support is part of the liquidation and it is likely that government support in 2022 will not take place unless there is a change from Covid.”
Ms O Neill said she was aware that there was talk every year about the difficulty of budgeting, but “it has been horribly difficult to balance this year”.
âWe had to take a lot of risks and make assumptions about what was going to happen. We’re having a tough time for so many years. The goal is to keep the services going as best we can. a requirement to go into deficit and get out of it, that’s what we will have to do, âshe said, adding that the general economic forecast is good but that the Council must foresee a difficult period in the next two years. years.
“You can see how essential government support has been for us over the past few years, but it is stopping and you can see how it has to happen.”
Cllr John Hegarty asked, in view of so many uncertainties, if the GMA figure for Wexford could be reduced and Mrs O’Neill said two days had passed before the budget was printed and that there was no proposal to adjust the GMA.
The draft budget plan containing the GMA figures was formally adopted by the members.