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Kildare County Council

Minutes of Budget Meeting held at 10.00 am on Wednesday,

10 December 2008 at Áras Chill Dara, Naas, Co Kildare

 

Members Present: Councillor S Griffin (Mayor), Councillors P Black, F Browne, K Byrne,

W Callaghan, G Conway, M Dalton, L Doyle, S Doyle, F Dukes,

D Fitzpatrick, M Glennon, G W Hillis, P Kelly, P MacNamara, T McEvoy, J McGinley, M Miley, C Murphy, M Nolan, F O’Loughlin, JJ Power,

K Ridge and B Weld.

 

Apologies:               Councillor R Hendy

 

Also Present:          M Malone (County Manager); Messrs J Boland, J Lahart, P Minnock,

E O’Sullivan, D Page and T Skehan (Directors of Services),

Mr T Hunter McGowan (Head of Finance), A C Talbot (Meetings Administrator) and other officials.

 

______

 

 

Consideration of Budget

 

Due notice of the meeting and of the preparation of the budget having been given as required by law, the Council considered the draft budget for the year ending 31 December 2009. The draft budget proposed expenditure of €139,387,067 and a rate of €71.12.

 

The Mayor welcomed all the members to the meeting and thanked the Manager and all those involved in the preparation of the draft budget.

 

The Manager referred to his formal report on the budget, which had been circulated to the members and particularly to the context in which it had been prepared. He noted that this was the first budget based on the new costing system. He said that preparation of the budget for 2009 had been a difficult task due largely to the current economic climate. He reported that income was down in a number of areas including: a decrease of 5.56% in the local government fund, capital receipts for housing, planning fees and income from refuse charges, in addition there had been an increase in payroll costs. He outlined proposed changes to the waiver scheme for refuse charges. The Manager advised the members that a number of criteria were taken into consideration in presenting a balanced budget, including a reduction in corporate overheads, a government direction to reduce payroll costs by 3%, and a rate increase of 2.9%.  He made reference to the work of the Audit Committee, which had commenced during 2008 and also to work which was ongoing in the area of value-for-money initiatives and efficiencies. 

 

The Mayor thanked the Manager for his report and advised the members that it was intended to deal with the budget by its various divisions.

 

 

Division A – Housing and Building

 

Mr Minnock, gave details of the provisions in Division A, referring in particular to local authority housing maintenance, central heating programme, vacant houses, community development, housing adaptation grants, housing under Part 5 of the Planning and Development Act, the rental assistance scheme and the building construction programme. 

 

During consideration of this division, members raised the following issues:

·        Promotion of the new Home Choice Loan.

·        Position regarding internal capital receipts.

·        Employment of community workers.

·        Delays encountered in relation to the housing adaptation/mobility aids/housing aid grants.

·        Turnkey developments

 

Mr Minnock addressed all the issues raised by the members.

 

At this point the Mayor asked Mr O’Sullivan to inform the members with regard to the implications of the direction from central government to cut payroll costs by 3%. Mr O’Sullivan stated that, in line with all public bodies, it was necessary for Kildare County Council to achieve a saving in payroll costs of 3%. Having regard to the current budgetary position it had proven necessary to make additional payroll savings. He said that the council was in negotiations with staff unions, but he advised that there would be job losses/non-renewal of contract posts. He further stated that where vacancies occurred through movement of staff etc, these positions would not be filled. He added that this situation was considered to be a preferable alternative to additional job losses. He informed the members that the council was mindful of the need to minimise the impact of job losses on front-line services, and he acknowledged the work of the Workplace Partnership Committee. 

 

Mr O’Sullivan addressed all the issues raised by the members.

 


 

Division B – Road Transportation and Safety

 

Mr Page gave details of the draft budget in Division B, referring in particular to funding allocations for national primary and secondary routes, grants from the Department of Transport, the restoration programme for regional and local roads, public lighting, Dublin Transportation Office and road safety. He referred specifically to three areas where some funding had been reduced or was no longer available, viz., local regional roads, special grant works and deficiencies in infrastructure.  He referred the members to page 23 of the budget statement and advised that the correct figure for traffic calming schemes was, in fact, €125,000. He informed the members that in order to balance the budget for this division it had not been possible to continue the discretionary fund for members.

 

During consideration of this division, members raised the following issues:

·        Reduction in funding for residential footpaths and disability access.

·        Reduction in funding for traffic calming.

·        Reduction in funding for signage.

·        Village community lighting provision.

·        Discretionary grant funding for councillors.

·        Introduction of pay parking in Maynooth and Clane.

·        Need for allocation of funds to remedy deficiencies in infrastructure.

·        Implications of health and safety regulations.

 

Councillor McGinley proposed that the sum of €1million be transferred from Local Roads General Maintenance Works – code B0405 – to Councillors Discretionary Grants (funds).  This proposal was seconded by Councillor MacNamara.

 

Councillor McGinley proposed that the deficit in infrastructure expenditure of €1.5m be restored as in 2008.  This proposal was seconded by Councillor MacNamara.

 

Following discussions it was agreed that a discretionary grant of €40,000 be allocated in respect of each member, subject to:
(a)   Members to submit the projects that they wished to nominate for grants on to the relevant Area Engineer on or before Friday, 30 January 2009;

(b)   At least one of the projects nominated by a member should have a value of €20,000 or more, and the remaining €20,000 to be allocated to a group of projects with an individual value of at least €5,000.

 

Mr Page addressed all the issues raised by the members.


Division C – Water Supply and Sewerage

 

Mr Boland introduced the draft budget for Division C, advising that the focus for 2009 would be in the area of water conservation/leak detection. He said that there were grants available relating to leak detection and that this area would now be included in the capital programme.  He also referred to income from commercial water supplies, the rural water programme, ongoing capital works and costs associated with the treatment of wastewater. He informed the members of a legal obligation to have one sanitary authority for the county by 1 January 2010 and advised that this issue would be advanced over the coming year.

 

During consideration of this division, members raised the following issues:

·        Cost of purchasing water from adjoining local authorities.

·        Proposals for treatment plant at Ballymore Eustace.

·        Flood alleviation.

·        Provision of water supplies from within the county.

·        Need for inspection of infrastructure installed by developers.

·        Proposals for abstraction of water from the River Shannon.

 

Mr Boland addressed the issues raised by the members.

 

 

Division D – Development Management

 

Mr  Lahart and Mr Skehan gave details, relevant to their directorates, in respect of the draft budget in Division D.

 

Mr Lahart noted that there had been a decrease in some activities in the planning area. As a result of this income was marginally down on the previous year. He said members that there had been a re-allocation of resources within the department to the areas of compliance and enforcement, development contributions and also to forward planning. 

 

Mr Skehan referred, in particular, to the following areas which formed part of his directorate; community grants, tourism and waterways projects, the county development board action plan, Kildare Traveller Interagency Steering Group and Cill Dara ar Aghaidh Teo.

 

During consideration of this Division, members raised the following issues:

·        Work of the building control section, which was acknowledged.

·        Request that additional resources be assigned to the area of compliance and enforcement.

·        Welcome that more forward planning work was to be done in-house.

·        Recommend meeting with agents and promoters to give direction with regard to the planning process.

 

Mr Lahart and Mr Skehan addressed all the issues raised by the members.

 

Division E – Environmental Protection

 

Mr Boland and Mr Page gave details, relevant to their directorates, of the draft budget in Division E.

 

Mr Boland reported that there was now less waste going to landfill as a result of new collection arrangements for recyclables and residual waste, and better management of the system. He also referred to the introduction of additional collection arrangements, increased incidents of illegal dumping, street cleaning, burial grounds and pollution control.

 

Mr Page said that the budget for the fire service programme showed an increase of fourteen per cent. He added that a successful recruitment campaign had been run during the course of the year and the number of retained fire-fighters had increased to a total of 70, although this was still short of the complement required for the service. The increased staff complement equated to the increased budget requirement. He also referred to health and safety requirements for the service, new equipment and training and the proposal to  introduce/increase charges for attendance at fires.

 

During consideration of this division, members raised the following issues:

·        Reduction in funding for street cleaning.

·        Proposed changes to the waiver scheme for refuse charges and the need for a national policy on waiver schemes.

·        Concern at loss of refuse service customers to private contractors.

·        Possible initiatives with the business community for additional on-street litter bins.

·        Cost of replacement refuse bins.

·        Operation of civic amenity centres.

·        Extension of street sweeping pilot project.

·        Requirements for new burial grounds at locations throughout the county.

·        Need for storage facilities for fire service equipment.

 

The members paid tribute to the Fire Service for the work carried out during the course of the year.

 

 

With regard to the waiver scheme for refuse charges, Councillor McGinley proposed that the fourteen free tags be restored and that a combination of the flat charge pricing, removing the €250,000 brown bin provision (code E0402) and increasing the commercial rates, be used to pay for this. This proposal was seconded by Councillor Byrne.

 

Councillor McEvoy proposed that waivers should be available for long-term users of the council’s service and that it be advertised that to qualify one must be such a long-term user.  This proposal was seconded by Councillor Dukes.

 

Mr Hunter McGowan set out the position with regard to the waiver scheme for refuse charges. 

 

Mr Boland and Mr Page addressed all the issues raised by the members.

 

Division F – Recreation and Amenity

 

Mr Skehan gave details of the draft budget in Division F, referring in particular to community halls, new libraries at Monasterevin and Clogherinkoe and proposals for a library in Kildare Town, the Riverbank ‘Open for ideas’ initiative and the extension of joint policing committees. 

 

During consideration of this division, members raised the following issues:

·        Teenage activity area at the Harbour Field in Maynooth.

·        Meeting house in Ballitore in disrepair and needing attention.

·        Proposals for Loughnamona lands.

·        Need for a swimming pool in the north of the county.

·        Reduction in funding for parks.

·        Clarification requested regarding funds generated by the Irish Family History Foundation database.

·        Need for increased funding for administration of the arts programme and contributions to other bodies arts programmes queried.

 

The members commended the work carried out by Simon Wallace during the course of the year.

 

Mr O’Sullivan briefed the members in relation to the new swimming pools in Naas and Athy.  He said that both pools were on course to open in early February and added that there would be a series of briefing sessions and visits to the pools for members during January.  He set-out the position relating to the employment of staff in the new pools and advised the members that information discussions were ongoing in this regard.

 

Mr Skehan addressed all other issues raised by the members.

 

Division G – Agriculture and Education

 

Mr O’Sullivan and Mr Boland gave details, relevant to their directorates, of the draft budget in Division G, referring in particular to higher education grants, the veterinary service, the dog warden service and land drainage.

 

During consideration of this division, members raised the following issues:

·        Proposals for land drainage in the north of the county.

·        Continuation of land drainage work in the south of the county with particular reference to the River Griese.

·        Increased funding for dog warden service welcomed, however, need for improvements to this facility highlighted.

 

Mr O’Sullivan and Mr Boland addressed all issues raised by the members.

 

 

Division H – Miscellaneous Services

 

Mr O’Sullivan gave details of the draft budget in Division H, referring in particular to the register of electors, local elections in 2009, coroner’s fees and the motor tax function.

 

During consideration of this division, members raised the following issues:

·        Need for level of funding proposed for the use of Irish

·        Need for level of funding proposed for audit fees.

 

Mr O’Sullivan addressed all issues raised by the members.

 

Consideration of Amendments

 

The members continued their consideration of the budget and a number of motions which were put forward in relation to amendments.

 

Councillor McEvoy’s motion, recorded above, in relation to availability of waiver for long-term users of the council’s bin service was adjourned with his consent to the January meeting of the council, pending receipt of advice in relation to the implementation of such a policy.

 

Councillor Dukes proposed that the council reduce the provision of the €140,000 in the budget for members expenses to €40,000 to enable the reduction of the commercial rate by 0.25%. The motion was seconded by Councillor Glennon.

 

 

Councillor Kelly proposed that the following budget heads be reduced:

H0901                        -           Representational Payments                          45,000

H0906                        -           Conferences Abroad                                   20,000

H0904                        -           Conferences Home                                      40,000

E0402                        -           Organic Bins                                               250,000

 

and that waste bin stickers be maintained at the 2008 rate           72,000

                                                                                                            427,000

and that the rate be reduced accordingly. 

This proposal was seconded by Councillor O’Loughlin.

 

 

As it was approaching 6.00 pm it was resolved on the proposal of Councillor Nolan, seconded by Councillor Browne, that standing orders be suspended until such time as the business of the meeting had been concluded.

 

The Mayor then informed the members that he intended to deal with each proposal submitted during the course of the meeting.

 

Councillor McGinley stated that, as an agreement had been reached in relation to Discretionary Grants for Councillors, he was not proceeding with his proposal in this regard.

 

As the proposal tabled by Councillor McGinley and seconded by Councillor MacNamara, in relation to deficit in infrastructure expenditure, related to capital expenditure it was agreed that this item be deferred for consideration with the capital budget.

 

Councillor McGinley entered an amendment to his earlier motion on free bin tags and this was also seconded by Councillor Byrne. The amended proposal was:

“That seven free tags be provided and that a combination of the flat charge pricing remaining as 2008 (€72,000), removing the €250,000 brown bin provision and reducing conference code H0904 by €70,000 be used to pay for this”

The motion was put to the meeting and was defeated by fifteen votes to seven.

 

With regard to proposal from Councillor McEvoy regarding the waiver scheme for refuse charges, this was deferred, with the councillor’s consent, for consideration at the January  meeting of the council.

 

Councillor Dukes informed the meeting that she wished to withdraw her proposal relating to a reduction in the budget allocation for Members Expenses (Conferences) in order to reduce the commercial rate by 0.25%.  Councillor Glennon, who had seconded this proposal, agreed to this item being withdrawn.

 

The members considered the motion submitted by Councillor Kelly, and seconded by Councillor O’Loughlin, that the following budget headings be reduced as follows:

H0901                        -           Representational Payments                          45,000

H0906                        -           Conferences Abroad                                   20,000

H0904                        -           Conferences Home                                      40,000

E0402                        -           Organic Bins                                               250,000

+ maintain the bin stickers at the 2008 rate                                     72,000

                                                                                                            427,000

and reduce the rate accordingly to €70.36 (an increase of 1.8%).

 

Resolved on the proposal of Councillor Kelly, seconded by Councillor O’Loughlin, with eighteen members voting in favour and five members voting against, that the amendments outlined in the motion be incorporated in the Budget 2009.

 

The meetings administrator informed the members that both Leixlip and Newbridge Town Councils had made amendments to their budgets and this would in turn require an amendment to Table C of the County Council’s budget.

 

Adoption of Budget

 

Resolved on the proposal of Councillor Kelly, seconded by Councillor S Doyle, with twenty members voting in favour, three members voting against and no member abstaining, that pursuant to Section 103(7) of the Local Government Act 2001, Kildare County Council do hereby adopt for the financial year ending 31 December 2009 the budgets set out in tables A, B, and C of the draft budget presented to the Council and do hereby determine in accordance with the said budget the annual rate on valuation set out in Tables A and C to be the annual rate on valuation to be levied for that year for the purposes set out in those tables, subject to the provisions for expenditure under the following headings being reduced as follows:

H0901                        -           Representational Payments                         € 45,000

H0906                        -           Conferences Abroad                                 € 20,000

H0904                        -           Conferences Home                                    € 40,000

E0402                        -           Organic Bins                                             €250,000

and the provision for income under the following head being increased as follows:

                                                Domestic Refuse Charges                       €   72,000

To yield a total saving of €427,000

and subject to the annual rate on valuation to be levied for the year being reduced to €70.36, and table C being amended to show to show the annual rate on valuation to meet the sums required for Droichead Nua and Leixlip Town Councils being reduced to €1.54 and €1.79 respectively, it being noted that those councils had reduced the sums to be raised for them to €177,702 and €403,500 respectively.

 

The meeting concluded.