Kilkenny’s local authorities have managed to make substantial savings while maintaining core services, according to a new report by the County and City Managers’ Association (CCMA).
The county and borough councils have achieved payroll savings of €4.9m through a reduction in the number employed and through pay cuts and other pay bill reductions. In total, between 2008 and 2012, Ireland’s local authorities collectively have achieved €830 million in savings, exceeding the target of €511 million set by the Local Government Efficiency Review in 2010.
Procurement savings of €1.4m have been realised and cost avoidance measures to the value of €1.3m have been implemented, according to Kilkenny county manager Joe Crockett. Mr Crockett said that with major efficiencies and savings already achieved, the county and borough councils are among the local authorities leading the reform agenda.
The manager says that these savings were achieved while maintaining front line services. The reform process is continuing with an ambitious programme of shared service projects across the 34 local authorities. Commercial rates remained at the same level for the years 2009-2010-2011, and were reduced for 2012.
“These savings were mainly achieved through significant efficiency gains, with payroll costs substantially reduced,” said Mr Crockett.
“Kilkenny Local Authorities have already reduced staffing numbers by 138 between 2007 and 2012. That represents a reduction of 18% in numbers employed or 16.5% in Whole Time Equivalents employed.”
The CCMA report was issued the same week that the council learned it stood to lose some €1.6 million in central Government funding if a greater local compliance with the Household Charge is not secured.
The Department of the Environment has told the council that it will be receiving less this year based on the county’s compliance with payment of the charge. Kilkenny currently has a 56% compliance rate with the tax.
Cathaoirleach of Kilkenny County Council Marie Fitzpatrick has renewed calls for people to comply with the charge.
“I welcome the statement of Mr Joe Crockett on the contributions made to date to the reform programme by the elected members, the staff, the trade unions, industry and community groups,” she said.
“The success to date could not be achieved without all parties working together. I urge all people to pay their household charge in order to maintain services to all sectors of the community and to avoid cuts to services.”
The Mayor of Kilkenny Seán Ó hArgáin also welcomed the announcement of the savings, and asked the public to play their part in ensuring that local councils have sufficient funding to continue to provide the best possible service .
“We all know that we are living in an extremely difficult time in terms of the provision of public services and that we must find ways of saving money in our spending everywhere we can,” he said.
“Our councils have done a really good job of continuing to provide vital services with less staff and have saved a huge amount of money to the taxpayer in the process. I congratulate all those who have played their part in this difficult process, including our officials, staff, their unions and of course the elected members who have actively supported and driven this process.”
The mayor appealed to the public in Kilkenny to support the process by paying the Household Charge.
“The majority of European countries have such a local charge and without this contribution, we will not be able to continue to provide the services we do or indeed hope to improve them in the future,” he said.
“As Mayor, I believe it is vital that citizens know where and how the money they contribute is spent and I will support the maximum openness in this regard. I would like to see an accessible break-down of all our spending published annually. I have also asked the city and County Managers to have signage designed to indicate clearly every project which is being funded by local charges.”