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Building upsurge keeps Council income on track

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While planning applications are up by 15% and the collection of rates is up by a million compared to last year, Galway County Council finances are on target for the first half of the year.

In a short briefing to councillors at last week’s meeting of the local authority, the head of finance Gerard Mullarkey said things were as expected at the end of June.

By the end of August, the cash collection for rates was up a million compared to the end of August 2014. Most of the write-offs related to vacant properties where businesses no longer operated.

Tuam Independent Councillor Shaun Cunniffe said the council was burying its head in the sand when it came to making provision for bad debts in rates. He asked if it was going to be around €2m like last year.

Mr Mullarkey said much of those bad debts were related to businesses going into receivership or bankruptcies.

Cllr Tim Broderick (Ind) asked why the council could not have some sort of discretion when it came to rates.

“It’s happening in Oranmore, Ballinasloe at the moment that businesses are closing all over the place due to rates. I’d love to see some engagement from our officials with somebody from the Department. We are just building up bad debts without making some effort to engage with business owners,” he exclaimed.

“We seem to have huge discretion when it comes to write-offs. Why can’t we have some when it comes to dealing with people on an individual basis.”

He described as worthy a motion tabled by Councillor Martina Kinane (FF) which called on the council to create a “Commercial Rates Credit scheme” to support business owners and leaseholders who were financially impacted by infrastructure or road works that last for two weeks.

Cllr Kinnane’s insisted that commercial rates are placing an extreme burden on small businesses.

“They remain under intense financial pressure which is resulting in closures. I believe that there is an onus on Galway County Council to provide this targeted support scheme immediately to support businesses in Oranmore and other villages and towns within the county that are experiencing dramatic drop in footfall due to ongoing works,” she stated.

The chamber was informed that an amendment by the Government to the current legislation governing the administration and collection of commercial rates was required.

She then proposed that the council write to the Department requesting this change, which received the backing of all sides.

Acting director of services for planning, community enterprise and economic development Catherine McConnell said the number of planning applications were up by 15% this year compared to last but most were quite small in nature. It was too early to say whether they would result in an increase in income for the coffers.

CITY TRIBUNE

GAA club’s tournament honours stalwart who died at just 28

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Pictured at the launch of the Darragh Frain Memorial Tournament which takes place in Mervue this Saturday. Back: Kevin Curran, Kevin Barrett, Robert Fitzgerald, Aidan Brady, Alan O'Donnell, Donal Murphy, Eanna O'Connell, Eoghan Frain, David Henry. Front: Aodhain Ó Conghaile, Liam O'Donnell, Rory Murphy, Fionn Fitzgerald and Michael Barrett.

The untimely passing of a city GAA stalwart six years ago is still deeply felt by the club he represented but he remains an inspiration to young up-and-coming footballers who will be displaying their skills this weekend.

The Darragh Frain Memorial Tournament for under-age teams will take place in St James’ GAA grounds at Mervue tomorrow, Saturday, when many memories of a great young clubman will be exchanged.

Darragh, from Lurgan Park in Renmore, was just 28 years of age when he lost his battle with cancer in 2016. Since then his beloved club has been organising a tournament for young footballers that’s proving immensely popular.

For tomorrow’s event, the St James club will entertain local teams including St Michael’s, Salthill-Knocknacarra, Killanin and an Cheathrú Rua, as well as Kiltane (Bangor Erris) and Elphin-Ballinameen from North Roscommon.

It is a nine-a-side tournament, which takes place from 11am to 5pm, and will involve Under-11 teams who will compete against each other during the day.

The fact that Darragh’s late father, Tom Frain Senior, hailed from Roscommon means that GAA support for the event is coming from both counties – this makes it extra special, as well as adding to the profile of the tournament.

Best friend and one of the event’s main organisers, another St James stalwart David Henry explained that this was the sixth year of the tournament and that Darragh would be very pleased that his name was being associated with the development of under-age football.

Get the full story in this week’s Galway City Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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CITY TRIBUNE

‘Too many cafés’ as city retail continues to decline

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Barber Tom Nally outside his premises.

The changing face of Galway city centre is a source of concern to those who say it reflects a decline for people in terms of retail choices.

Those who regret the loss of several long-standing family-run operations in the city in recent years don’t believe that what has replaced them has enhanced the appearance of Shop Street, in particular.

“We are looking at a proliferation of coffee shops, bookies and mobile phone outlets in their place,” observed long-standing city centre businessman Tom Nally.

Cllr Niall McNelis agreed there were far too many coffee shops in the city centre and believed that anything that has been zoned retail by the Council should remain retail.

The Labour Councillor said a proper retail strategy needed to be adopted and some of the ‘big-name brands’ needed to be encouraged into the centre of Galway to lure shoppers into town.

Meanwhile, popular barber Tom Nally regretted the number of family operations that have ceased trading in the recent past.

“It is sad to see the long-established family businesses in the city centre going and it would be great to say that what is replacing them will enhance our streets . . . but unfortunately this is not the case,” he added.

Mr Nally who has been operating out of his High Street premises for almost 50 years, said the number of unoccupied premises in an around the city centre was a new phenomenon.

Get the full story in this week’s Galway City Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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CITY TRIBUNE

State cracks down on quick-buck landlords

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New measures to clamp down on illegal short-term lets in the city will kick in next month, in an attempt to tackle mounting pressure on the rental market.

From September 1, sites such as Airbnb and Booking.com will no longer be allowed to advertise short-term rentals if the correct planning permission is not in place.

The measure seeks to strengthen laws introduced in 2019 which state that the use of a property for short-term letting for longer than 90 days in a rent-pressure zone requires permission from the local authority.

City Councillor Niall Murphy (Green) said the move follows on from an objection he lodged with the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI).

“The ASAI said it couldn’t be expected to police these ads so the websites like Airbnb were off the hook. But after September, they will have to ensure that those advertising on their sites have planning permission,” he said.

The proliferation of short-term lets in the city has been a contentious issue for a number of years, with scores of holiday leases available at the same time as city residents are battling it out for an extremely limited number of rental properties.

This week, almost 400 short-term lets were available on the leading website, Airbnb, while just 19 homes were up for rent on Daft.ie.

Get the full story in this week’s Galway City Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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