THE annual Local Authority review, by the National Oversight and Audit Commission (NOAC) has been published, with mixed results for Waterford City & County Council. The report, which was published late on Thursday (September 30) examined the performance of the State’s 31 local authorities in 2020 across 11 areas in a range of areas, including housing, homelessness, the environment and financial management.
Some of the key findings of the report include the council’s financial deficit, which is improving, from -€7.6m in 2016 to -€5.1 at the end of 2020. It’s not as bad as Sligo (-€17.4m) but it’s still the third worst performing council, financially, in the country. Unsurprisingly, Dublin’s councils are the most well off.
Waterford’s collection levels – of rent and commercial rates – remain steady. The rate of collection of commercial rates was 81% in 2016 and 82% in 2019. The collection rates slid dramatically (67%) in 2020 due to the pandemic. The collection of rent in 2016 was 79% and is 77% as of the end of 2020. The collection rate of housing loans appears to be a different matter. The figure was just 58% in 2016 and is only steadily rising to 65% in 2020.
Waterford City & County Council had the highest rate of public liability claims outside of Dublin City (23.87) at 20.07 per capita back in 2016 and that figure was streets ahead of almost every other county in Ireland. However, in 2020, the number has reduced to 14.88 per capita, which is now behind the likes of Galway City (21.29), Kerry (18.52), Limerick (18.74), Longford (16.0), Sligo (21.84) and Tipperary (68.59).
Waterford explained that when the separate municipal districts joined with Waterford County Council, it removed the previous insurance excess of €6,300. The Council advised that it works with IPB to mitigate against potential claims by reviewing data from the insurance company. This included the use of heat maps and then works to upgrade the area to avoid the next potential claim.
The number of jobs created by the local enterprise is the worst in the country with a worrying -160.1019 per 100k population. Leitrim (-137.3112) and Cavan (-128.6494) are next in line, but are some way off our underperformance.
The number of homeless adults in Waterford is decreasing. At year end 2019 there were 71 homeless and at year end 2020, there were 47. At the same time, there were 34 adults in emergency accommodation in 2019 and 23 in 2020.
Waterford City & County Council also recorded that 100% of inspected private dwellings in 2020 were found not to be compliant with the Standards Regulations. There were no figures on inspections of council owned properties although it was noted that there are currently 5,175 dwellings in the ownership of Waterford City & County Council as of January 1, 2020, and 5,275 as of December 31, 2020. This figure compares well against most other counties. Meanwhile, in Waterford, it takes 27 weeks to re-let vacant house at average cost €11k.
With regard to public lighting, the rest of the country are doing great things for the environment with their LED lighting, for example, 89% of Monaghan’s public lighting is LED. Sadly, Waterford has the lowest percentage of public lighting at just 6.8%. However, it was noted that a LED upgrade is set to commence in 2022.
Waterford’s fire service is the third most expensive in Ireland but it’s also the fastest. In relation to fire related emergencies, Waterford had the quickest response time for full time services of 57 seconds, an improvement from 2019 when they were also the quickest at 1 minute 4 seconds. This compares to 1:36m in Louth, 1:22 in Cork and 1:28 in Dublin. Waterford also scored high (fourth in the country) in the percentage of cases in respect of fire in which first attendance at the scene was within 10 minutes.
It was also noted that Waterford City & County Council had the third highest rates of days lost by council staff due to self-certification sickness. According to the report, Waterford City & County Council intends to operate a “blended” return to the office with the possibility of having three days in the office and two days out.