AKC News // Fianna Fáil promises to cut council levies on builders

DEVELOPMENT levies charged by local authorities to builders to supply services will be cut in half for two years to spur construction in counties controlled by Fianna Fáil after the elections, Taoiseach Brian Cowen has said.

The levies cut, along with a plan to freeze business taxes for three years, form the highlights of the party’s local election manifesto, Accountable and Effective Local Government.

The levies, which were worth nearly €600 million in 2005 and nearly €700 million in 2006 to councils at the height of the building boom, have collapsed since, according to councils.

They play “an important part” in ensuring that public services are available to service major developments, but “there is evidence” that they “are acting as a disincentive to the progression of many projects,” the manifesto declares.

“At a time when it is important to try to maintain and increase employment by stimulating economic activity, Fianna Fáil will cut all development levy charges by 50 per cent for a two-year period for all projects through the planning system and those which have been substantially completed in that two-year period,” it went on.

However, local authorities will not lose out, since the Government will make up the difference through the annual payment made to each of them through the Local Government Fund from the Department of the Environment, the party pledged.

Business rates will be frozen for the next three years on councils controlled by Fianna Fáil, while the future of rates will be reviewed by Enterprise Ireland and representatives of local government, and other affected parties.

However, Dublin Chamber of Commerce last night said the freeze did not go far enough: “A freeze in commercial rates is simply not enough to support jobs,” said Gina Quin, Dublin chamber chief executive.

“Companies are cutting costs across the board to deal with their fall in revenue, and labour costs in particular. Local government needs to share this burden of readjustment in order to help companies balance the books. Therefore, rates need to be cut – not simply frozen – if we are to begin to avoid further pay and job cuts.”

Local authorities should cut their rates by 4 per cent this year to match the fall in prices expected, while Dublin chamber would ask “all candidates to commit to rate reductions over the next five years”, she said.

The Fianna Fáil manifesto also said links would be improved between County Enterprise Development Boards and Enterprise Ireland to create 12,000 jobs over the next four years.

The money necessary would be supplied by the State, private sources and the European Union under the Rural Development Programme.

Counties that have not attracted a major foreign company over the last five years will be targeted for special promotion by the Industrial Development Authority.

Support for new businesses will be offered by one-stop shops in each local authority, while city and county managers will be urged to improve their links with local businesses.

The party also says work experience places would be provided in local authorities to encourage the transfer of skills.

Council meetings should be broadcast “live” on the internet; more council documents should be published; and councils should guarantee to publish information within certain times.

Ethics legislation introduced over the last few years “has directly dealt with the worst actions of previous times”, the manifesto claims.

Local authorities should still keep the lead role in ensuring that councillors obey the rules, but the Standards in Public Office Commission should have greater oversight.

The election spending limits introduced recently by Minister for the Environment John Gormley are “necessary”, the document accepted.

But “we will ensure that their operation is reviewed to ensure that the bureaucracy involved is appropriate and is not unduly burdensome on candidates, especially those who do not have access to extensive technical support,” it says.

Source: The Irish Times

Date : 20-05-2009