BUDGET MEETING: Small business grant scheme could have positive impact for local businesses

BUDGET MEETING: Small business grant scheme could have positive impact for local businesses
About four out of five businesses in the county could see a reduction in rates through the county council’s 2015 budget, Donegal county councillors heard this morning.

About four out of five businesses in the county could see a reduction in rates through the county council’s 2015 budget, Donegal county councillors heard this morning.

Councillors are meeting at County House, Lifford, today, to consider the 131.2 million euro draft revenue budget for next year.

The draft budget includes a small business grant scheme that would enable most businesses in the county to access a 5 per cent reduction in rates for 2015. The 5 per cent grant targets businesses that pay 5,000 euro or less a year in rates.

The council budget meeting reconvened briefly at 2.30PM and immediately adjourned again until 4pm, to give Seamus Neely, chief executive of the county council, an opportunity to meet independently with each of the political groupings on the council.

In his presentation to councillors, Garry Martin, council director of finance, said that 79.3 per cent of businesses in the county have rates bills of 5,000 euro or less.

“This should have a positive impact on four of five ratepayers in this county,” Mr. Martin said.

No ratepayer will pay any more in 2015 than they did in 2014, he said.

In his presentation, County Chief Executive Seamus Neely said that Donegal County Council expects to recruit 15 to 20 members of staff next year. This would be the first time the council has recruited staff since about 2009.

Mr. Neely told councillors that staff recruitment would focus on ensuring enough people at the frontlines to deliver services, and to ensure that council’s project planning in a number of areas is at an advanced stage to enable the council to access funding that may become available over the course of the year.

Noting that the council is facing a challenging financial position generally, Mr. Neely said a focus of the draft revenue budget for next year has been to ensure that the council have a capacity to support growth and development.

Tuesday’s budget meeting followed a lengthy workshop on Monday afternoon, where Mr. Martin presented councillors with a detailed presentation on the draft revenue budget.

Some councillors from different political groupings said this morning that they did not expect the deep divisions this year that resulted in last year’s budget meeting stretching to more than 40 hours, spread across four days.