Fear debt-rocked Sligo County Council could be plunged further into the red

Authority to consider plan to take on debt of Knock Airport
Airport debt currently around €9 million

Sligo News File Online

SCC OfficesThe monthly meeting of Sligo County Council is scheduled to hear
a proposal calling for the authority to take on the multi million debts of the regional airport at Knock.

For reasons that should be explained, there is no mention publicly
of the actual liability – referred to an investment – the county council is planning to take on, but on a previous occasion a number of the elected body, including Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, expressed their support in principle for the plan.

The airport debt for which Sligo and a number of other local authorities plan to assume responsibility stands at almost €8 million euro – and may be much more if the figure is to include bank fees and charges over the duration of the local authority agreement with the airport.

On the face of it, it looks that in return for the major multi million investment, each of the local authorities will receive a relatively minor stake in the ownership of the development, possibly something as small as in the order of 3%.

Councils have had briefings by airport directors pointing to advantages the region will benefit from by their financial contribution. However, nothing they have stated suggests that anything more than is currently available will open itself to the various counties. Indeed, it has already been argued the county least likely to gain from the 30-year agreement is debt hit Sligo.

There is little doubt that the plan, taken with the rest of the millions of existing council debt, and the further millions of euro to be met in connection with the legal liabilities of the Lissadell proceedings in the high and Supreme courts, the risk of commercial rates and property taxes rising through the roof is a very real prospect in the perion ahead. As well, the council is under government pressure to produce a surplus of at least a million euro a year in order to pull back its present sky-high debt.

There are suggestions that such is the state of the council finances and the sweeping risk to council services to the public that the authority may well opt to introduce a special extra tax regime on the county, as permissible under the local government reform process.

Ireland West airportDespite earlier optimism, it’s believed a number of councillors are profoundly worried about the financial implications of Sligo, given its prevailing debts, being now hit with the responsibility for debts of
the airport, which directly or indirectly will fall to be paid for by the people of the county. There are also in Sligo communities growing concerns about the massive scale of the debts the council is engulfed in, knowing what it will mean for not only families in terms of costs, but also the economic and social condition of the entire county.

It is also rumoured that at least one group is proposing to raise the funds necessary to have the council’s debt situation examined by legal counsel, and possibly tested in the courts as to where liability for the debts should reside.

The meeting, in the County Hall, Riverside, on next Monday, 11 May, is open to the public, and commences at 11am.