Frugal Westmeath is spending less than other local authorities

Westmeath is spending less than other councils in areas such as housing, roads, water, and recreation, according to a new website which compares public spending across the country.

The new website, localauthorityfinances.com, launched this week, provides a breakdown of every euro being spent by local authorities this year, encouraging Westmeath natives to compare their council’s spend against the national average and other local authorities.

In general, Westmeath County Council appears to be frugal when compared with neighbouring counties, for example spending just half of what Longford spends per head on tourism and heritage.

Westmeath has a total budget of €61.6 million for 2014, which breaks down to an average spend of €715 per person on council-provided services.

While roads account for the largest chunk of Westmeath’s expenditure, some 21.5 per cent of the total budget for the year, it still comes in lower than the national average. Westmeath will spend €153.59 on roads this year, while the national spend is €169.67 per person.

When it comes to housing, Westmeath is also frugal, allowing just €107.03 per person on local authority housing, compared with an average spend of €160.93 per person across the country.

And Westmeath spends less than half the national average on environmental services such as fire services and waste and litter management, with a budget of €70.80 per person compared with €146.27 nationally.

The only heading under which the Westmeath budget surpasses the national average is the elusive ‘Other’ category, which takes in the administration of commercial rates and motor taxes, and local representatives’ salaries and expenses. Westmeath spends €124.65, marginally higher than the national average of €123.75.

A comparison with neighbouring Longford reveals a huge disparity in spending. Longford County Council spends an average of €178.28 per person on housing, compared to Westmeath’s €107.03.

Likewise with water, Longford’s spend far exceeds Westmeath’s with figures of €262.11 and €145.25 respectively.

As the electorate take to the polls today [Friday May 23], the website’s creators believe the public have a right to know how money is being spent locally, particularly in the wake of the introduction of the Property Tax.

“This will be the first Local Election since the introduction of the Local Property Tax, which councils can raise or lower by up to 15 per cent, and the public are understandably curious about the services provided by their local authorities. For most people, this is the first time they will be faced with the tradeoff between providing more local services at the cost of higher taxation, or reducing their tax bill at the cost of cutting services. This site will help the electorate make an informed decision,” says Cormac O’Sullivan of Public Policy.ie

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