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Sinn Féin to Oppose Cork City Council Estimates

15 December, 2003

Sinn Féin will tonight oppose the adoption of the Cork City Council estimates. In particular we will oppose the proposed dramatic rise in the refuse collection tax. Outlining Sinn Fein's position, Councillor Jonathan O Brien said:

"Tonight we are faced with fixing a budget for the next year, made all the more difficult by the Fianna Fail and PD parties‚ policy of under-funding of Councils. The burden is added to by a shortfall of 5 million euro to pay for benchmarking. Benchmarking was a national policy decision, which should by right come out of the national exchequer. Also thanks to the establishment parties, Councillors across the 26 counties have had powers taken from them, which would enable them to enact policies, which would be fairer and more efficient for the people they represent.

There are a number of areas in particular on which I have concerns. Principally-

1. On programme 4, Environment, the most controversial of all the programmes in terms of the budget, I have grave concerns. The total cost next year of the domestic refuse collection system will be €5.8m. This figure includes administration costs and the cost of the waiver system. Going on this figure the cost of refuse charges next year should only be €209. This figure is calculated on the basis there are 28,000 householders who are billed. Why then are we proposing a charge of €355, an increase of €78 or 28%? Considering that the wheelie bin operational costs will fall next year by nearly 70% it is even harder to justify such an increase. The 28% increase in refuse charges is huge compared to the proposed increase of 5% in commercial rates. It is easy to see who has been hit hardest in this budget. 28,000 people paying €355 gives a total income of €9.6m. Not only are people being charged this stealth charge but also they have to pay way over the actual cost, in fact €3.8m over and above the actual cost of disposing of their waste

2. Next year we propose to spend €8.95m on Housing Maintenance. This represents 34% of our total housing budget. Of this €8.95m we will spend almost €2.2m on Vacant Dwellings with a further €258 on securing our vacant dwellings. In total this is 27% of the Maintenance budget. In comparison less than 3% will be spent on repairing or improving central heating in our housing stock. This is an area where further improvement is needed. Many houses that become vacant need little or no work to be carried out on them before they are ready for re-allocation but at times these houses have been left idle for to long, only to be vandalised.

In summary Cork householders will pay a total of €22.4m in rents and refuse charges alone next year. That's 15% of the total budget. The local government fund will not even match this figure. It is all to clear who is going to suffer next year if this budget is passed. I cannot support a budget that asks the people of this City to pay more than the fair share of the wealth we created through our taxes, wealth that we see, judging by the recent budget, spent on racehorses."ENDS

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