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Dublin councillors vote to pass annual budget amid finance row

Rates for businesses will increase under the new budget.

Councillors voted this evening on the budget.
Councillors voted this evening on the budget.
Image: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Updated Nov 25th 2019, 8:55 PM

COUNCILLORS IN DUBLIN City Council have voted to approve an annual budget, averting the prospect of representatives being replaced by a ‘commissioner’ amid a row over reduced finances.

The vote means that Dublin businesses will face a nearly 3% hike in rates, after councillors warned last week that “significant additional income must be raised if services are to be maintained”. 

The council predicts that this will generate an additional four million euro in income. 

The vote comes following a loss of rates income worth €8.4 million on Irish Water-owned properties, after the government told the council that a decision had been made to distribute money paid by Irish Water in rates on a “population apportionment basis”.

Councillors have accused the government of treating Dublin City Council unfairly and had warned that it had placed councillors in an impossible situation. 

In previous years, councillors have made little or no change to business rates in the city and the budget typically passed largely without drama. 

Last week, councillors adjourned a debate on the ‘necessary’ increases to charges in the city to make up the shortfall, including increasing commercial rates, council rents and the tolls for the Tom Clarke (East Link) Bridge. 

Lord Mayor Paul McAuliffe, ahead of the vote, had said that businesses are facing an “unfair increase” to rates. 

This evening, McAuliffe said: “We have got ourselves to a point where this council must pass a budget for this city to continue, for this council to continue.”

Speaking to TheJournal.ie earlier today, Labour councillor Rebecca Moynihan said the government was firmly to blame for the row. 

“The national government has left us with a cut in our budget,” she said. “We have been left in an unenviable position.”

Debate

During the often heated debate, councillors targeted Fine Gael’s attitude towards the funding of Dublin City Council. 

Fianna Fáil councillor, Deirdre Heaney, said the change to Irish Water rates income has had a “detrimental impact” on the council budget. 

The Green Party’s Michael Pidgeon accused the government of “asking us to deny reality”. 

“I think we have managed to put something together progress and worthwhile,” he said. But, he added, the “context for this budget is clear and it is broken promises”. 

Sinn Fein’s Séamus McGrattan called on councillors to “stand up” to the government. 

“We should keep going and press the government more,” he said. 

Fine Gael councillors, who faced considerable criticism during the course of the meeting, defended the government and attacked the budget. 

Fine Fael councillor, James Geoghegan, called the budget “really disappointing”. 

“We’re attacking small businesses,” he said. 

Councillors conceded that the budget was far from perfect. 

“I wish we had greater control over this budget. But we don’t,” Labour’s Dermot Lacey told the chamber. 

Reaction

Many councillors were apologetic about the rate increase. Writing on Twitter, Fianna Fáil councillor Racheal Batten said she wanted to apologise to “small business struggling in Dublin”. 

“The choice of raising rents on the most vulnerable was not something I could do”, she added. 

Dublin Chamber, which represents businesses in the city, said the decision was “disappointing”. 

“This decision is extremely short-sighted. It is frustrating for businesses to be told that there is no option but to raise their rates again,” CEO of Dublin Chamber Mary Rose Burke said. 

“The idea that businesses would be left to pick up the bill, when councillors have many other fund-raising levers available to them, is hugely disrespectful to the thousands of rate-paying companies in the city,” she added. 

With reporting from Cónal Thomas

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