The city’s elected officials are in intense negotiation this week in the hope they can find a viable alternative to privatising the Council’s waste collection service.

It’s just one of a range of cost-cutting measures being proposed by City Manager Michael Walsh that also include an increase in parking costs from €1.50 to €1.80 per hour, a 1% rise in commercial rates and an overall cutback in expenditure of almost €5m on services in the city. “Prudent financial management dictates this to be a requirement”, the Manager has said.

Some 5,000 homes would lose their waiver scheme if the refuse collection were privatised and, united in their opposition to this, the Council are not expected to pass the City’s Book of Estimates when it comes before them next Monday night. However the ultimate decision whether or not the service will be privatised rests with Michael Walsh.

In his Budget 2009, the Manager said the service is under extreme pressure because of an increase in waiver commitments of €1.2m (an increase from €700,000 three years ago) and competition from the private sector. Non provision of a refuse collection would immediately save the Council €700,000 and provide a longer term save of €1.2m per annum through the redeployment of the workforce.

Overall, the proposed Budget 2009 is ‘perhaps the most difficult of the past 20 years’, according to the Manager. Though expenditure remains similar to 2008, the €5m cutbacks will be achieved through reductions in payroll (€1.7m), the provision for services and future developments (€3m), community and cultural supports (€0.2m) and also an increase in income (€3.7m).

In terms of Council personnel, vacancies will not be filled, overtime will be reduced and a number of contract employees will be let go. The cost of water to non-domestic customers is to rise from €1.53 per cubic metre to €2.35. Cuts in service costs are widespread and likely to have a significant impact on the delivery of services.

The report predicts a decline in income from the Local Government Fund, planning and fire certificate fees. Notable costs to be incurred by the Council in 2009 include the holding of local elections.