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Building upsurge keeps Council income on track

Denise McNamara

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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

Galway City publican in heroic River Corrib rescue

Francis Farragher

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A city publican who last week helped save the life of a woman who had entered the waters of the Corrib off Wolfe Tone Bridge has made an appeal for young people to ‘look out for each other’.

Fergus McGinn, proprietor of McGinn’s Hop House in Woodquay, had been walking close to Jury’s Inn when he saw the young woman enter the river.

He then rushed to the riverbank on the Long Walk side of the bridge, jumped into the water, spoke to the woman and stayed with her until the emergency services arrived.

The incident occurred at about 3.45pm on Friday last, and a short time later the emergency services were on the scene to safely rescue the woman.

“She was lucky in that the river level was very low and she didn’t injure herself on the rocks and stones just under the water.”

He also appealed to the public to support in whatever they could the work being done by groups like the Claddagh Watch volunteers.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Pubs face court – for serving booze on their doorsteps!

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Gardaí have warned city publicans that alcohol cannot be served outside their own premises – even in newly-created on-street spaces designated by Galway City Council as suitable for outdoor dining.

Councillor Mike Crowe (FF) said three Gardaí visited a number of city centre pubs on Thursday afternoon informing them that drinking outdoors was not allowed under licensing laws.

“They warned publicans and restaurants that the area outside their premises is not covered by the licence, and therefore under national legislation, they are breaking the law, because they are not entitled to sell alcohol in non-licensed areas.

“The operators were told that this was an official warning, and they will be back again in a few days and if it persisted, they [Gardaí] would have no option but to issue a charge and forward files to the Director of Public Prosecution. You could not make this up.

“All of the big operators were visited, and received an official warning, and they will be charged if they persist. According to the guards, they’re getting instructions from [Garda headquarters in] Phoenix Park,” he said.

The matter will be raised at a meeting of the Galway City Joint Policing Committee on Monday.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Call for 50% affordable homes in new Galway City Council estates

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The next Galway City Development Plan should include a greater provision for affordable housing than that recommended by Government, a meeting of the City Council has heard.

Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind) told the meeting that while it was the Government’s intention to introduce a stipulation that new estates should have 10% affordable housing, Galway should go further – building anything up to 50% affordable in developments that are led by the local authority.

The Affordable Housing Bill, which is currently working its way through the Oireachtas, proposes that all developments should have 10% affordable and 10% social housing as a condition of their approval.

Affordable housing schemes help lower-income households buy their own houses or apartments in new developments at significantly less than their open market value, while social housing is provided by local authorities and housing agencies to those who cannot afford their own accommodation.

The Council meeting, part of the pre-draft stage of forming the Development Plan to run from 2023 to 2029, was to examine the overarching strategies that will inform the draft plan to come before councillors by the end of the year and Cllr McDonnell said a more ambitious target for affordable housing was absolutely necessary.

“It must be included that at least 50% of housing must be affordable [in social housing developments],” he said.

This sentiment was echoed by Cllr Eddie Hoare (FG) who questioned if the City Council was ‘tied down’ by national guidelines, or if it could increase the minimum percentage of affordable housing required locally.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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