CLARE County Council is considering changes to its system of rate collection after the County Manager admitted the current “door to door” method has become too costly.
Tom Coughlan was speaking at last Tuesday’s meeting of Clare County Council as members adopted the budget for 2012.
Responding to a question from Cllr Oliver Garry (FG) about possible changes in rate collection, Mr Coughlan told the meeting that the council should have to go “door to door” to collect rates, citing the method of bill payment utilised by the ESB.
He said, “Other organisations don’t do it. It is very, very costly to be going around knocking door to door”.
He added, “I’d have to question how long we can continue to do it.”
Mr Coughlan told the meeting that new ﬁgures from 2010 National Service Indicators showed that Clare County Council had the third lowest level of absenteeism of all 34 city and county councils in the country.
He said the council’s absenteeism rate of 3.95 per cent was “signiﬁcantly below” the national average.
The council will receive € 10.18m from the local government fund, a reduction of 5.45 per cent from last year.
In his report, Mr Coughlan stated that that represents a cumulative reduction of 38 per cent since 2009.
Mr Coughlan stated that the 2012 cut represented the fourth lowest reduction nationally.
Commenting on the household charge, Mr Coughlan said the charge would not represent additional income for the Council.
In his report, Mr Coughlan said it had not been possible for the council to reduce commercial rates.
He stated, “Due to the fact that the household charge is being paid into the Local Government Fund and, in light of the continuing reduction in local government funding and income from local services, it has not been possible to provide for a decrease in rates in this draft budget.
“It is proposed to meet the ongoing reductions in funding through achieving efﬁciencies as in previous years, and consequently an increase in the level of commercial rates is not provided for”.
Mr Coughlan continued, “As I stated in the Budget Report 2011, Clare County Council is acutely aware of the ﬁnancial difﬁculties which our rate payers are experiencing and we are committed to adopting a practical approach in terms of facilitating rate payers.
“However, I must emphasise that if the council does not receive the income which is identiﬁed in this draft budget, the maintenance of the levels of services which are planned for 2012 would be impacted.”
Mr Coughlan said that despite ongoing efforts to reduce expenditure and increase income, the projected ﬁnancial result for 2011 is a € 500k deﬁcit.
“The key variances are as a result of essential works which were undertaken to respond to the adverse weather conditions in early 2011, unexpected costs relating to Traveller accommodation and the increased levels of vacant properties in the county,” he said.