The government needs to meet urgently with Louth County Council to sort out the major cost of servicing loans on land banks owned by the local authority, Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú told the Dáil recently.
The Dundalk TD raised the issue with Minister of State Peter Burke and housing minister Daragh O’Brien during debates about funding for local authorities and the Residential Tenancies and Valuations Bill.
Louth County Council has already asked the government for a meeting with the executive, Louth TDs and councillors.
The Sinn Féin representative said that if the Local Property Tax (LPT) is raised by ten to 15%, which has been requested last month by council CEO Joan Martin, ‘ it would deal only with the cost of the loans on land banks in County Louth that were bought under instruction from Government around 2006 and 2007 in many cases’.
Deputy Ó Murchú said that while some of the around 50 acres of land banks had been dealt with, ‘a significant amount are left’.
He said: ‘Last year, Louth County Council spent about €1 million to service the debt. We need the government to meet with Louth County Council, with elected representatives and with the executive about putting solutions in place that deal with the substantial unit cost of these lands. Some of them would be perfect for affordable and social housing and affordable cost rental. We need these meetings and solutions to occur as quickly as possible’.
In response, Minister Burke said: ‘We in the Department have to be fair and ensure that local authorities are fully funded. I have given a commitment about the July stimulus package, with the Minister, Deputy Darragh O’Brien, that it will be of scale and timely, and that it will respond to the challenge that local authorities face to ensure that they will not lose services or staff.
‘We also need to ensure that we support our local authorities. I will not be found wanting in that regard and nor will the government’.
Speaking after the debate, Mr Ó Murchú said he had spoken to Minister Burke about the issue following the exchange. He added that he had spoken with Minister O’Brien about the specific issues in Louth and the housing minister responded he intends to meet with the council in the coming months.