An Analysis of Local Public Finances and the 2014 Local Government Reforms
Keywords: local government, public finance, Ireland
AbstractIn this paper we set out to analyse changes in local government expenditures and income in the context of central government austerity measures, local government budgetary adjustments and, most especially, the 2014 local government reforms. More specifically we outline the effect of the local government reforms, and, in particular, the redesign of intergovernmental fiscal relations (namely, territorial rescaling, expenditure and revenue re-assignment, changes in central government transfers) on the local public finances. Using data from the Local Authority Budgets we examine changes to the main service divisions, income sources and cross-council variations in expenditures and income, pre and post the 2014 reforms. Our results show that local government fiscal changes and recovery lag central government patterns, a general shift from central grants to local own-source revenues, and cross-council differences with respect to dependency and selfreliance persist. The establishment of Irish Water and the Local Property Tax have, at least initially, made the local government fiscal accounts, and in particular the Local Government Fund, less transparent and more complex, making an objective and accurate assessment of local authority budgets more difficult than before the reforms. Earlier publication of the consolidated Annual Financial Statements of the local authorities is called for so as to ensure continued scrutiny of the local public finances.
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