I propose to take Questions Nos. 102 and 103 together.
The AIRO report on Cork County Council referred to in the Question was received by my Department on 9 June and is under consideration by my officials. It is a wide ranging report which covers funding from a variety of different Government Departments for a range of issues and schemes. Many of the funding lines are outside of the remit of my Department. The report has also been sent for consideration to other relevant Government Departments. The funding system for local authorities is complex, with authorities deriving their income from a variety of sources including local sources such as commercial rates, charges for goods and services and funding from Central Government.
Most of the funding from Central Government must be used for specified services. These can be grouped into five broad programme categories: recreational, education, environment, housing and transport. In relation to funding streams specifically from my Department, €135.3m and €167.5m was provided to Cork County Council in 2019 and 2020 respectively. The increase between 2019 and 2020 is due to an increase in housing funding, as well as funding in respect of the COVID commercial rates and other COVID related expenses that occurred in 2020.
It is a matter for each local authority to consider how it can maximise local income sources and manage its own spending, in the context of the annual budgetary process. Local authority members may decide, as part of that process, to vary the ARV and LPT in order to increase the revenue available to them. I note that for 2020 and 2021 Cork County Council raised their LPT rate by +5% and +7.5% respectively, foregoing the maximum 15% raise or just over €3m in 2020 and €2.4m in 2021.
I would like to refer to the plans recently announced by the Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe T.D to reform LPT. These reforms will involve bringing new homes, which are currently exempt from LPT, into the taxation system as well as providing for all money collected locally to be retained within the county. This will also be done on the basis that those counties with a lower LPT base are adjusted via an annual national equalisation fund paid from the Exchequer, as is currently the case.
I also refer to the unprecedented support for local authorities during the COVID pandemic. In 2020, Cork County Council applied a 100% commercial rates waiver to just over 9,000 businesses and recouped €34.7 m in that regard from my Department. In addition, in recognition of COVID related income losses, and additional COVID related expenditure incurred in 2020, my Department provided funding of €6.7 m to Cork County Council. The Government has introduced a commercial rates waiver for 2021, which has been extended to end of September, at an estimated cost €480 m. As has been the case since the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic, my Department will continue to engage with the local government sector and with individual local authorities on the financial impacts of the pandemic and provide them with the necessary financial supports.