Westmeath County Council Cathaoirleach, Cllr Frankie Keena, has welcomed an expenditure increase of €4.3 million in the local authority’s budget for the financial year ending December 31 2022 which was formally adopted on Monday of this week.
“I am delighted that we, as a local authority, have formally adopted our financial budget for the year 2022.
“The local authority’s total expenditure for our financial budget to the year ending December 31 2022 is €90.5 million which shows an increase of €4.3m or five percent on the previous year.
“It is so important to maintain and grow our current level of services in 2022 and in order to achieve this the council will be hiring 17 new personnel in such areas as engineering, heritage, environment, housing and library services. This is a positive endorsement from our local authority and portrays a vote of confidence in the direction in which Westmeath, as a county, is certainly progressing,” Cllr Keena asserted.
The Cathaoirleach stressed that the unanimous decision taken not to increase Local Property Tax, existing rates and car parking charges is to be positively received.
“Monetary increases to such measures are always under consideration and the decision not to implement relevant measures ensures that the passing of our financial budget in the midst of a public health pandemic is a welcome boost for our county,” the Cathaoirleach stated.
Cllr Keena noted that the All Ireland Fleadh, to take place in Mullingar in August of next year, will have financial benefits for the county.
“The All Ireland Fleadh will take place in County Westmeath in 2022 with Mullingar the designated host town. The council has allocated €625,000 towards this event where it is estimated that up to 500,000 persons will be in attendance. The economic benefits of Mullingar hosting the All Ireland Fleadh will certainly extend throughout the whole county,” Cllr Keena added.
The Cathaoirleach noted that a number of initiatives had been introduced by the local authority to assist businesses who continue to be detrimentally impacted by the ongoing pandemic.
“As businesses continue to face a myriad of challenges and uncertainty due to this persistent pandemic, we have provided a number of initiatives as direct support to them in 2022.
“A €220,000 grant scheme has been made available which will allow financial support equal to six percent of any rates bill up to €5,000. Businesses can further avail of financial support under the Shopfront Enhancement Grant Scheme for their premises,” Cllr Keena continued.
Cllr Keena acknowledged that substantial funding is being provided by the local authority towards the construction of houses within the county to address the large number of people on the council’s housing list.
“Under our three year capital programme up to €200m is being allocated to construct approximately 740 units over the next five years. Coincidentally, this is complemented by a call from Government for local authorities to request builders to consider offering homes with planning permission, where construction has not yet commenced, under an advance purchase turnkey arrangement. These houses located within estates of between 10 to 150 housing units will in turn be made available for sale with discounts as affordable housing,” Cllr Keena commented.
Concluding, Cllr Keena noted that regeneration projects primed to develop and enhance Athlone are planned to commence in the first quarter of 2022.
“Our regeneration projects are still firmly on target with the €6.2 million Athlone town centre street enhancement scheme planned to start in the opening quarter of 2022, while preparation work continues apace on the Connaught side of Athlone.
“Upon reflection, this is a wholly positive budget and now it is incumbent on all relevant personnel to implement the measures detailed within our great county communities,” Cllr Keena concluded.