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Kildare County Council

Minutes of Budget Meeting held at 10.00 am on Monday,

6 December 2010 at Áras Chill Dara, Naas, Co Kildare

 

Members Present: Councillor B Weld (Mayor); Councillors K Byrne, W Callaghan, L Doyle, S Doyle, S Griffin, M Heydon,

  P Kennedy, P Kelly, A Lawlor, P McEvoy, J McGinley, S Moore, C Murphy, M Nolan, T O’Donnell, C Purcell and

  M Wall.

 

Apologies:               Councillors F Browne, R Daly, S Langan, P MacNamara, M Miley, F O’Loughlin and D Scully

 

Also Present:          M Malone (County Manager); Messrs J Boland, J Lahart, P Minnock and E O’Sullivan(Directors of Services),

  Mr M O’Leary (Acting Director of Services), Mr T Hunter McGowan (Head of Finance), A C Talbot

  (Meetings Administrator) and other officials.

 

______

 

Consideration of Budget

 

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 Capital Budget Programme 2011-2013, which had been circulated to the members, was noted.

 

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 2011. The draft budget proposed expenditure of €128,199,604 and a rate of €68.95.

 

The Mayor invited the Manager to address the main issues contained in the Budget for 2011.

 

The Manager referred to his formal report on the budget, which had been circulated to the members, and particularly to the national context, including the National Recovery Plan, about which he said there had been much debate, and the report of the Local Government Efficiency Review Group.  He made reference to the fact that local government had seen the biggest percentage reduction in staff numbers across the public service; he further commented that Kildare had the second lowest ratio of staff per capita of population in the country.  There was, however, a very strong commitment among staff to provide the best possible service to the public within the resources available. 

 

He outlined the position with regard to rates, stating that he had received representations requesting that they be reduced for 2011.  He stated that, when considering a rate reduction, the council must be mindful of the impact that it might have on services.  He added that he was, however, proposing a rate reduction of 2% for 2011.  The gap between income and provision of services would have to be bridged through a combination of staff reductions, efficiencies and a reorientation of the works programme. 

 

The Manager said that the budget for 2011 identified a reduction in expenditure of €1m.  He added that some costs cannot be reduced, particularly having regard to areas where we have a legal obligation to carry out certain functions.  In relation to refuse collection charges, in particular the waiver scheme, the Manager confirmed that there was no change proposed for 2011.

 

He informed the members that collection of income was very challenging in the present climate.  He added that the council would continue to liaise with people who had difficulty meeting their payments.  Referring to the Local Government Fund, the Manager advised the members that the proposed reduction nationally was signalled at 16.89%, but off-setting measures were to be introduced and, based on best assessment of the situation, a reduction of 13% had been allowed for in 2011.

 

The Manager thanked the Finance Officer and his staff for preparing the budget book, which had proved challenging.  He also recorded his appreciation for council staff, the army, Gardai, HSE and Civil Defence personnel who were currently working hard to deal with the severe weather conditions.  

 

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 outlined details of the provisions in Division A, referring in particular to the costs associated with local authority housing maintenance, the RAS scheme and grants, adding that the focus for 2011 would be on Disabled Persons Grants.  He also outlined the proposal to introduce a charge of €2 per week for each tenant towards the cost of servicing boilers or 2 chimney cleans per year,

 

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

  • Maximum loan approval and allocation of council loans
  • What is scope for increasing number of RAS houses in 2011
  • Clarification requested in relation to sites acquired for traveller accommodation in Newbridge and Celbridge
  • Update members in relation to purchase of houses in existing housing estates and confirm that the units will not be clustered within a development.
  • Clarify position with regard to Housing Adaptation grants.

 

Mr Minnock addressed all the issues raised by the members.

 

 

Division B – Road Transportation and Safety

 

Mr O’Leary gave details of the draft budget in Division B, referring in particular to funding for national primary road maintenance and improvement and winter and general maintenance, maintenance issues for regional and local roads, particularly as a result of severe weather conditions, tender for public lighting maintenance, traffic management, road safety and car parks.  He noted that 50% of expenditure under this division came from central government grants.  Detailed information with regard to these grants would not, however, be available until January/February 2011.  He referred to the additional funding for winter maintenance made available by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, and confirmed that the council would be making a submission for funds. 

 

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

  • Clarification requested as to how funds allocated for traffic improvement measures will be spent
  • Any funding available from Road Safety Authority towards cost of publicising road safety issues
  • Amount of discretionary funds available to members
  • Dissatisfaction with current contract for public lighting maintenance
  • Any provision for community improvement schemes in 2011
  • Breakdown of revenue projections and expenditure on pay parking by town to be provided
  • Service support costs for traffic management
  • In-house work on repairing traffic signals

 

Councillor Nolan proposed that the allocation of members’ discretionary funds for roadworks remain at €40,000 for 2011.  This was seconded by Councillor Griffin.  Councillor Kennedy proposed that the allocation remain at €30,000 until such time as the grant allocation for 2011 is known, at which time the discretionary allocation might be increased to €40,000.  This proposal was seconded by Councillor Nolan and agreed by the members.  The Manager clarified that in 2010 additional funds were made available through the Local Government Fund and this allowed for an increase in the members discretionary funds to €40,000.  He stated that it was not expected that such an allocation would be received in 2011, however, this matter would be revisited following confirmation of the road grants for 2011.

 

Division C – Water Services

 

Mr Boland outlined details of the draft budget for Division C, noting that there was a large provision of almost €25m for it.  He referred to the current position in relation to ongoing projects and also outlined the importance of leak detection and water conservation, adding that more resources would be allocated to leak detection.  He made reference to the flood relief programme which was ongoing and the water investment programme.

 

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

  • Potential for energy generation from sludge
  • Increased ESB costs noted
  • Flood alleviation project for Dara Park, Newbridge
  • Reduced cost of purchasing water for 2011 noted
  • Clarification requested in relation to capacity at Osberstown Wastewater Treatment Plant
  • Consider changes to waste collection service, such as organising on a profit share basis.
  • Do wellfields represent a net saving or a net cost.

 

Mr Boland addressed the issues raised by the members.

 

 

Division D – Development Management

 

Mr Lahart presented the draft budget in Division D and noted that there was very little construction work ongoing in the county at the moment.  He considered, however, that there was a latent demand for housing in Kildare, which indicated that, over time, there would be an increase in demand in the construction sector.  He advised the members that employment related applications were down in 2010 and income from planning application fees was also down.  There had been a lot of activity in Forward Planning due to the number of development plans being reviewed.  For 2011, however, there would be a decrease in both expenditure and income under this division.

 

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

  • Source of funding for new work taken on, particular with reference to review of local area plans
  • Information requested in relation to the number of unauthorised development cases resolved
  • Need to call in bonds where developers have abandoned unfinished estates
  • Clarification requested in relation to identifying amount of bonds currently available to the council 
  • Need to maximise funding available for promotion of tourism in the county.
  • Need to provide more assistance to tidy towns groups in their efforts

 

Mr Lahart addressed all the issues raised by the members.

 

 

Division E – Environmental Protection

 

Mr Boland outlined details of the draft budget in Division E highlighting that there had been a substantial reduction in expenditure under this division, referring, in particular, to savings achieved in waste management.  He noted that the net cost of providing the two civic amenity sites was €1.2m and advised the members that consideration was being given to the feasibility of outsourcing this service.  He noted that there were substantial costs arising from the introduction of new legislation relating to waste management activities.  He advised the members that, partly due to the increased costs introduced in 2008, it was now possible to progress projects relating to some burial grounds in the county.  He noted the work undertaken during the year in relation to derelict sites.  He confirmed to the members that a special meeting of the Water and Environmental Services Strategic Policy Committee would be held shortly to consider the Waste Management Plan and that all members would be invited to attend.

 

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

  • Provision for monitoring of waste sites, such as Kerdiffstown
  • Implications of retention of waiver scheme
  • Breakdown of income from burial charges requested
  • Further clarification requested in relation to proposal to outsource civic amenity sites
  • Clarify position with regard to proposal to outsource street sweeping in Maynooth
  • List of companies provided with waste permits by the council requested
  • Confirm amount collected from litter fines

 

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

 

Mr Boland addressed all other issues raised by the members.

 

 

 

Division F – Recreation and Amenity

 

Mr Minnock gave details of the draft budget in Division F pointing out the drive for better value for money under this division.  He made particular reference to the decrease in the allocation for library provision which was as a result of the reduction in staff.  He advised the members that this may impact on opening hours, while noting that footfall to libraries was very high.

 

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

  • Inequitable level of spending in north of county compared with centre and south of county.
  • Clarification requested in relation to allocations for community and sports grants
  • Any provision for possibility of loss by company responsible for the swimming pools
  • Consider opportunities for increased revenue intake through libraries
  • Need to identify versatile destination, with multiple uses, for families to visit in the county.

 

Mr Minnock addressed all 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.

 

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

  • Increased cost of administering higher education grants.

 

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..

 

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

  • Increased cost of insurance noted – requested that possibility of savings be investigated
  • Call for changes to rates system in order to provide some respite for small and medium enterprises
  • Proposed reduction in rates welcomed
  • Clarification requested in relation to increased allocation for Register of Electors
  • Clarification requested in relation to requirements for Usaid na Gaeilge

 

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

 

 

Central Management Charge

 

During consideration of this part of the draft budget, Councillor Murphy proposed that a complaint be made to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government about the proposal to cut the Local Government Fund across the board, given that Kildare County Council’s allocation is already low in comparison to other local authorities.  This proposal was seconded by Councillor Moore.

 

 

Adoption of Budget

 

Resolved on the proposal of Councillor Nolan, seconded by Councillor McGinley, with eighteen members voting in favour, no member 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 2011 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.

 

The meeting concluded.