All across the country, local authorities are counting the cost of the nationwide lockdown that ground economic activity to a halt. Rates were suspended for businesses that were forced to close as a result of the pandemic and the government is still making up the shortfall to councils in that area with a national emergency fund, it remains to be seen how it will play out in the likely event of a significant amount of rates income going unpaid, or if that fund will cover all losses or simply a proportion of them. Initial reports in early June suggested that as little as one third of the loss might be reimbursed from central funds, though this remains under review.
Planning income and other income streams have also dried up, and all across Ireland it’s noticeable that much of the focus has shifted onto parking income, with councils now asking for help with regard to making up shortfalls in this area.
The Clare Echo reported that Clare county council has estimated a loss of €1.3 million in parking income, Cork is planning for a €1 million shortfall, Mayo a similar number, and this scenario is replicated all across Ireland. Here in Roscommon, because there is no parking income, there is nothing to replace, so there is a danger that the county will be punished for learning to live more frugally, all in the interests of local business.
Roscommon Cathaoirleach Laurence Fallon said that the nation’s desire “to help those areas that are less able to fund themselves” needs to hold firm in the face of the coronavirus crisis.
“Here in Roscommon we’ve a low rates base. We don’t have parking income because we’re trying to encourage people to come into our towns, and as a result we rely heavily on central funds. We’re going to continue to rely heavily on central funds, as it’s not easy to cut back.
“The majority of our revenue goes on staff costs, and those staff are still working away, providing local services. We’re all in this together, and the government needs to show that again here, by making sure that every county is given support, not just those who are used to higher levels of income.