The Estimates put forward by the City Council, governed by a Coalition of Sinn Fein, Labour, Greens and Independents will see €862.5m allocated for services including Housing, Roads, Water, Development, Enviornment, Culture and Education. This Budget proposes an increase in the rate of charges paid by local businesses, including our pharmacists, butchers, newsagents and others. It is also suggested that City Council tenants will have to pay an increased Gas Boiler Charge to cover the cost of a new annual gas boiler service programme.
As Leader of the Fine Gael Group on Dublin City Council, I outlined the fact that there were some measures in the Estimates that my group agree with, including;
- The increase of funding for Road re-surfacing and footpath improvements.
- Increase in the funding for local Area committees of €1m to cover the cost of enhancement works locally.
However, following the 2014 Local Elections, I entered into negotiations with other parties as to agree a governing coalition to run Dublin City Council until 2019. Our key objectives in those negotiations were the reduction of Local Property Tax annually and that no increase in rates would be placed on businesses across our city. Given that no commitment was forthcoming from other parties, we withdrew from those discussions.
Those objectives are still relevant today, coupled with the fact that our economy, both nationally and in Dublin is still recovering and is fragile, that the impact of Brexit on our economy is still uncertain added together with the implementation of the economic policies of the new U.S. President-Elect and how they could impact our State. Therefore, the Fine Gael Group believes that now is NOT the time to increase business rates. I tabled the Fine Gael amendment to the Estimates that would see those rates being frozen for the next twelve months.
That amendment propsoed:
“That the Budget for the local financial year ending 31st December, 2017 and set out in report No. 310/2016 be and is hereby amended by Dublin City Council where the Annual Rate of Valuation is maintained at the 2016 level and is funded by an decrease in expenditure of Miscellaneous Services of €705,000.
• H0303: Reduction of €600,000 in estimate provided by Chief Executive of €35,600,000 to: €35,000,000 for Refunds & Irrecoverable Rates.
• H1001: Reduction of €105,000 in estimate provided by Chief Executive of €4,814,355 to be: €4,709,355 for Motor Taxation Operation.
funded by an increase in income for Housing & Building, Road Transport & Safety and Development Management of €895,000
• Propose that the figure to be collected in Rents from Houses by Chief Executive of €79,650,000 to be increased to: €80,000,000 by €350,000.
• Propose that the figure to be collected in Parking Fines & Charges by Chief Executive of €33,355,000 to be increased to: €33,700,000 by €345,000.
• Propose that the figure to be collected in Planning Fees by the Chief Executive of €2,200,000 to be increased to: €2,400,000 by €200,000.
The amendment put forward by me as Fine Gael Leader was prudent, cautious and constructive. My party does not believe in simply opposing for opposition sake. When we disagree with a proposal, we put forward an alternative detailing how we would do things differently.
The Fine Gael approach to Budget 2017 would see businesses on Prussia Street, Phibsborough Road, North Strand Road and others across the city having to pay the same as in 2016. Sadly, that approach was not adopted by the Council’s governing coalition.