Westmeath’s public purse still healthy despite continued restraints
Despite a further reduction of 7.5 per cent in the allocation of Government money to local authorities last year, Westmeath County Council remained overdraft free, and still reduced its long term borrowings by €3 million, according to its 2011 annual report released this week.
In fact, the county actually finished 2011 with a “modest” operating surplus of €177,000.
“We have met and exceeded expectations in the context of budgetary discipline, reduction in staff numbers, the progression of shared services and organisation restructuring as envisaged,” said county manager Danny McLoughlin.
There was €37 million spent on roads in Westmeath in 2011, of which €25m was provided by the NRA for the county’s two motorways. Eight kilometres of the county’s roads were restored in 2011, while 67km qualified for surface dressing.
Water services within the county are now costing over €1m a month to service 14,800 homes with 37m litres (approx 8.1m gallons) of water each day.
The total planned investment for water services for Westmeath in the 2010-12 period is just short of €95m.
The council continues to be the biggest landlord in Westmeath, with 1,723 houses owned or administered by the authority.
In 2011 the council spent €1.88m on constructing new homes, and a further €1.25m on improvement grants for its elderly and disabled residents.
There are 56 properties on the derelict sites register, 29 of which were valued for the issuing of an annual derelict sites levy.
The Mullingar Arts Centre saw just under 77,000 people come through its doors in 2001 to see 68 professional and 52 local theatrical events.
During this period, up to 1,200 children each week come into contact with the performing arts through classes provided by this facility, it was also revealed.
The council spent €1.186m on litter control, receiving 726 complaints, and issuing 304 on-the-spot fines. The council sought 36 prosecutions in the courts throughout 2011, and secured three convictions.
Of the almost 32,000 occupied homes in the county, 19,500 are served by a waste collection service. There was 21,500 tonnes of waste collected from these houses of which 16 per cent was sent for recycling.
The fire service responded to a total of 814 call-outs last year , down a substantial 30 per cent on 2010.
Its safety programme for primary schools continued, with officers speaking to 1,700 children in 72 classes across the county. A further 335 smoke alarms were distributed to people in Westmeath.
Westmeath County Council has an annual budget of €71.3 million, 31 per cent of which is for payroll and pensions.
Anyone interested in a more detailed look at the annual report can view it at all council offices and libraries, or www.westmeathcoco.ie