All of the controversial Local Property Tax collected across Galway is to be retained in the county, it was decided at a meeting of the local authority this week.
Normally, 20% of the LPT collected goes back to the exchequer, but angry councillors have decided that this will no longer be the case.
Each county returns 20% of the LPT to the Government for redistribution but it has emerged that County Galway is the poor relation when it comes to the amount it receives back on an annual basis. For example, this year Galway received €2.8 million in what is known as the ‘equalisation fund’ compared to €16.5 million which was dished out to Donegal and Tipperary and €11.5 million Mayo.
Councillors said that one of the “great mysteries” is how this fund is distributed and that is one of the reasons that they have now taken a decision to hold all of the property tax collected in the county.
It followed a motion tabled by Cllr Tom Welby who proposed that all local property tax collected by county councils remain in each local authority.
In addition, he wanted a new fund created that would be completely financed by the exchequer and one that would have a transparent system of distribution of this additional money to weaker local authorities – such as Galway.
Councillors were told how, back in 2008 Galway County Council received an allocation of €160 million to operate its services and that, in the meantime, it has now been reduced to just over €100 million.
“We keep going back to the Department with the begging bowl and it is thrown straight back in our faces”, remarked Cllr Welby who said that Galway continued to be losing out compared to other neighbouring counties with a much less population.
Cllr Michael Connolly (FF) said that nobody seemed to know how the equalisation fund was being distributed but that Galway was certainly not getting its fair share compared to other counties.
“Galway has been treated very poorly by the Department and we are not getting what we deserve to run our services. We are trying to deliver first world services on a third world budget. It is not on,” Cllr Connolly added.
Cllr Malachy Noone (FF) said that he had suggested in the past that the members of Galway County Council should travel to Dublin to express their anger and frustration at the way they are being treated and believes that this should still be a course of action to be considered.
“If we keep taking these cuts, then the ordinary people in our county are going to suffer even more. There are people living on the breadline and if they happened to hit a pothole, it could cost them €300 in repairs which they cannot afford.
“We are taking this punishment for far too long. And what about our TDs? They should be able to intervene on our behalf. The fact that our budget is continually reducing means that it is a failure on their part,” Cllr Noone added.
Cllr James Charity (Ind) said that there were a number of local authorities that were actually better off since the economic crash but that Galway was losing “more than most”.
He said that the staff reductions were punishing and this had an impact on every resident in the county. “Our local roads are in a terrible state and it is high time we have to shout stop. We have to withdraw our property tax until the anomaly in what we are receiving is addressed,” Cllr Charity said.