Fingal freezes commercial rates for sixth successive year as Councillors agree €216m budget for 2017

Fingal County Council has frozen the level of commercial rates for the sixth successive year after councillors overwhelmingly agreed a budget of €216million for 2017. The rates freeze will assist the competitiveness of local businesses in the face of a number of economic uncertainties including the fall-out from the Brexit referendum.

The 2017 Budget provides for a significant and continued level of investment in the social, economic and cultural fabric of Fingal as it sets out to deliver on a number of core objectives including continued investment in housing which, at €55m, represents over a quarter of the budget.

The Council’s planned expenditure of €215,953,800 next year will fund its day-to-day operations as well as contributing to the advancement of Fingal’s Capital Programme which will cost €324.4m over a three year period (2017-2019).

With a population of 296,214, the 2017 Budget represents a spend of €729.05 per head and a major stimulus to the local economy. For every €1 spent by the Council, an additional €1.70 is spent downstream in the economy and this means that the total contribution to economic output is over €0.5 billion. The employment impact is also substantial and for every position directly employed within the council, an additional three jobs are supported as a result. This means that the total employment contribution from Budget 2017 is over 4,000 jobs.

Councillors opted to reduce the basic rate of Local Property Tax (LPT) by 15 per cent at a meeting on September 12 and charges will remain at the same level as in 2016. The decision leaves the Council with discretionary LPT income of €1.9m and reduces the income from the tax by €5.7m.

A sum of €115.5m will be levied from Commercial Rates, which means the annual rate on valuation (ARV) for 2017 will be unchanged at 0.144. This is the lowest valuation rate among the four local authorities in the DublIn region and Fingal currently has the highest level of rate collection compliance in the country at 96 per cent.

Councillors voted to alter the rate of refund made on vacant property in 2017 as the vacancy refund rate is being reduced from 100 per cent to 75 per cent. Owners of vacant properties at the making of the rate will therefore be required to pay 100 per cent of the commercial rates and will receive a 75 per cent refund subject to certain conditions. The Councillors have reduced the rate of refund in an effort to further reduce the number of vacant properties in the County.

Within the 2017 Budget, a total of €55.09m has been earmarked for Housing and Building with €41.75m budgeted for Environment and €40.33m for Recreation and Amenity. Road Transport & Safety will receive €23.72m and Water Services €21.15m while €19.3m has been set aside for Development Management.

Welcoming the adoption of the 2017 Budget by Councillors, who voted 30-4 in favour, the Chief Executive of Fingal County Council, Paul Reid, said: “Fingal has strengthened its relationships with key Government Departments, officials, state agencies and wider stakeholders to support focus on growing the economy and building diverse communities that we are all proud of. The budget has been prepared following detailed consideration of all spending requirements and having regard to the objectives we have set in our Five-Year Corporate Plan. Meeting the demands for increased levels of service and investment in key assets, against a background of modest buoyancy in some income areas, remains a challenge. The budget will, however, support the Council in maintaining and improving on the services that we deliver to all of our key stakeholders.”

The Social Housing Strategy 2020, tasked Fingal with providing 1,376 social housing units during the period 2015 to 2017 through construction, acquisition, the rental accommodation scheme and the social housing current expenditure programme. The Action Plan for Housing and Homeless published by Government in July 2016 sets a national target to deliver 47,000 units of social housing by 2021 which represents a 35 per cent increase on the target set under the 2020 Strategy.

Fingal is already on course to exceed its targets by delivering over 2,000 social housing units under the Social Housing Strategy 2020 and, while the capital investment in the provision of social housing is contained in the Council’s Capital Programme, the revenue budget also plays a part in the delivery and support of social housing under the pillars of the Plan.

As well as the housing investment, the 2017 Budget specifically provides for funding in the following key areas:-

  • An investment of €5.4m in operational works programme for 2017 as follows:

  • Restoration Improvement Schemes €2,537,000

  • Restoration Maintenance Schemes € 900,000

  • Special Works Programme (Foothpaths & Drainage) € 750,000

  • Special Works Programme (Traffic) € 750,000

  • Special Works Programme (Public Lighting) € 100,000

  • Special Works Programme (Parks) € 400,000

  • €450k for Burial Ground Development

  • €100k to build up a fund for Emergency Coastal Protection

  • €150k to build up a fund for Bridge Maintenance works

  • €500k Public Lighting Energy Efficient (LED) replacement programme

  • €1.4m in continued transfers to capital to assist with the development and improvement of Historic Tourism Assets.

  • €616k in funding to specifically promote Fingal County as a tourism destination.

  • €1m for the delivery of events such as St. Patrick’s Day, Dublin Bay Prawn Festival, Flavours of Fingal and Swords Summerfest as well as community and voluntary events throughout the County.

While these and the rest of the expenditure-related items are highly important to the local economy, the economic and social impact of Fingal County Council’s activity goes far beyond this, and has a profound impact on the households and businesses in the region and beyond.

Examples of catalytic impacts which Fingal County Council is having on the region include the Dublin Enterprise Zone; Tourism Promotion; Promotion of indigenous employment through the Local Enterprise Office and Promotion of Quality of Life in which Fingal County Council has a significant programme of activity in nine of the 11 aspects that the OECD’s ‘Better Life’ Index identifies as measures to assess overall quality of life.

“Fingal is in an exciting phase of development,” said Mr Reid. “As our national economy recovers, Fingal, more than any other county, is positioned to be the engine of growth. The Council will support that objective through concerted activity by our Economic Development team. Just as importantly, we will provide services and fund initiatives that foster a County where people want to live and work. Providing that positive environment is a key factor in driving Fingal forward.”