Galway County Councillors have voted to block the council’s plan to raise the charge on commercial water and waste water in 2013.
Galway County Council passed its 2013 budget at a statutory budget meeting at County Buildings on Monday evening.
The budget was passed following an amendment, proposed by Cllr Jimmy McClearn, that the council retain the current water and waste water charges, and recoup €411,000 from the budget through a reduction in spending in a number of areas, including the purchase of children’s books, road maintenance and street cleaning.
The council’s draft budget had proposed raising the charge for commercial water by 18 cent to €1.37 per cubic metre and waste water by 19 cent to €1.45 per cubic metre.
Proposing the amendment to block the water increase, Cllr McClearn said the same people who would be affected by an increase in commercial water charges were also burdened by commercial rates and a decision not to increase water charges would go some way towards recognising that contribution.
The move would, he said, “keep some people in business that may have gone out of business”.
Cllr Peter Feeney said that, given that the water charges will be managed by Irish Water, a subsidiary of Bord Gáis, from 2014, Galway County Council should not be doing their work for them.
Cllr Mary Hoade also expressed concern that water charges would have “very serious effects on businesses that are already struggling”.
County Manager, Ms Martina Maloney said she appreciated that the proposed increase in water charges would impact on business and farmers, but that, at present rates, the council was providing a subsidy to commercial water users.
The council voted unanimously to approve the budget with the proposed amendment, despite the county manager expressing concern that the proposed cuts of €150,000 to the council’s public book budget and €86,000 to street cleaning, in particular, would prove detrimental to these services, with usage of the library service having increased by 21 per cent since 2008.
Ms Maloney also said the budget for 2013 does not contain any provision for contingencies due to the limited number of funds available and unexpected severe weather, would impact on the council’s ability to provide services.
Despite this, commercial rates will remain unchanged in 2013 “in view of difficult trading conditions,” she said.
Overall, Galway County Council’s budget for 2013 proposes €127 million in expenditure, a decrease of six per cent on last year’s spend and a drop of €33 million from 2008.
However, the county manager warned that the budget included a figure for road grants based on the 2012 allocation and expressed concern that the actual allocation for 2013 may not be at the same level.
Cllr Jarlath McDonagh acknowledged the work of Galway County Council in putting together a “very difficult” budget but said the council faced the “same old story” and did not receive enough funds from central government.
Attending his 33rd budget meeting, Cllr Michael Fahy said that, although things were bad, they had been worse in the 1980s.