A reassessment of local government’s financial position and performance: The case of Ireland

Gerard Turley 1 , Rémi Di medio 1  and Stephen McNena 1
  • 1 J. E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics, and Whitaker Institute for Innovation and Societal Change, , Ireland

Abstract

Given the changes in the Irish economy since the economic crisis and, more specifically, reforms in the local government sector, this paper reassesses the financial position and fiscal sustainability of local authorities in Ireland. To do this we employ a local government financial performance framework that measures liquidity and solvency, but also operating performance and collection rates, for different sources of revenue income. Using financial data sourced from local council income and expenditure accounts and balance sheets, we report and analyse the financial position and performance during the 2007–17 period. The results indicate an improvement in the financial performance of local councils since the early 2010s. Cross-council differences persist, in particular, between large urban local authorities and smaller rural local authorities, albeit only for the liquidity and operating performance measures. Among the small rural councils, Sligo County Council’s financial position, although improving, remains a serious matter with ongoing consultation with and monitoring by central government. To help improve the measurement of local authority financial performance we recommend inclusion of this framework in the local authority Annual Financial Statement and also in the Performance Indicator Report with a view to making financial reports more accessible and transparent to citizens and taxpayers and, ultimately, to help improve performance and service delivery by the local authorities.

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