Rented offices on John's Green
The message seems to be that tough decisions have to be made by Kilkenny County Council’s executive and its members in the wake of councillors’ decision not to increase the Local Property Tax.
The default position nationally and at local level - if we are to read between the lines of the utterances of Council officials at last month’s full meeting - is that cuts will have to be implemented to balance the books.
Perhaps it would be more prudent to look at ways of achieving more sensible spending – an entirely different approach – rather than taking a knife to crucial services like libraries, roads budgets or housing.
On that basis, calls for a review of Council rental costs are justified in the wake of the budget deficit the local authority is facing. The Kilkenny People is this week reporting that the Council paid over €300,000 in rental costs last year for properties.
The costs come after last month the Council’s executive warned that €1.8 million will have to come from somewhere to address the budget shortfall. And while savings from rent might be a more long-term objective, action should be taken now.
In light of the spending revealed on rents alone, it would suggest that recovering the deficit does have to result in cuts, just more prudent spending and careful analysis of where the existing monies are going and any savings that can be made as we move forward.
In response to queries about the local authority’s rent costs, the Council said co-location of all staff is a “long-term objective” and they will be examining all possible options in consultation with members.
Monies paid in rent at John’s Green and Parliament Street over the last four years would have gone a long way towards building a Council HQ by now and would save millions over the “long-term”.
November’s budget meeting is likely to be the most hotly anticipated of the last number of years and will garner more public interest than ever as people continue to seek answers and information on the Council’s spending.
Councillors, who are just two years out from an election and members of the public, will all be keen not to let the Council balance the books through cuts to vital services.
John’s Green House is used for “office accommodation and Library Headquarters” and the bill was €174,000 for 2014, 2015 and 2016 and the rent paid to date in 2017 stands at €130,500.
Cllr Andrew McGuinness asks that the Council review each property “on a case by case basis” and if this isn’t already done, it is certainly best practice and should become an annual occurrence.
The Council’s buildings should also be utilised to the max which in turn would also bring down rental costs. For example, he former Meubles building could be put to use which is a discussion taking place presently.
Every little saving will help the Council and the people it serves and making up the €1.8 million deficit does not have to be achieved by cutting the county’s public services.
The Council should be assessing the different ways and means of achieving savings across its current expenditure.
Are rental costs of €300,000 for last year too expensive? Can they be renegotiated, reduced further in some cases, eradicated through “co-location”?
It’s worth noting that the rent costs for this year to date are only €212,000 and would appear to be on course to being much less than 2016.
Despite this reduction, given the way the finances are looking, every euro of the Council’s budget is going to count.
All spending should be reviewed and savings sought where it is possible before any cuts are made.