Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has sought assurances from Council officials and from all parties that Council spending on housing will be protected in the face of growing uncertainty and risk when it comes to next years Council budget.
McGuinness made the comments as Councillors were briefed on risks currently facing Waterford Council. The risk to Council finances is currently at the highest possible level according to CEO Michael Walsh.
“The economic downturn as a result of the public health crisis is likely to impact on local authority budgets. If the performance of the new Government in recent EU negotiations is anything to go by, it is hard to hold out hope of adequate supports. Ireland will be a net contributor to the EU recovery fund, meaning we will get less that we ultimately pay in. Local Government has still not recovered from being thrown under the bus during the last economic crisis, and it seems Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are preparing to do the same again.
“Added to this is €2 million cut left over from the Irish Water fiasco, which saw Waterford disproportionately cut to the tune of €3.3 million last year, courtesy of decisions taken by Fine Gael and Labour in Government.
“Last year we saw €600,000 of rental income to the Council effectively written out of its budget to help offset this cut. Ordinarily this money would have been put to use within the housing department. Given the ongoing housing crisis it is unforgivable that monies would be diverted from housing. Not only do we need more money to fund the building of social housing and to support affordable housing projects, we also need to invest money into housing maintenance, upgrades and adaptions.
“Our older housing stock needs upgrading and retrofitting. There are persistent and longstanding issues in a number of estates with water ingress, inadequate insulation and ventilation, and deteriorating doors and windows. Housing adaptations, for the elderly and disabled, have ground to a halt due to lack of funds. This impacts both private home owners and council tenants.
“In this context, I am appealing to all Councillors to join me in taking a stand to protect the housing budget, and to ring-fence all income from rent for spending within the housing department. We can not have a repeat of last year’s cut.”