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Connacht Tribune

Councillors vote to withhold Property Tax from State

Declan Tierney

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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.

Connacht Tribune

Covid lockdown returns for Kildare, Laois and Offaly

Enda Cunningham

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The Government has announced localised lockdowns for people living in Kildare, Laois and Offaly, following a surge in Covid-19 cases over the past week.

People from outside of those counties have been asked not to travel their unless for work or essential travel.

The restrictions affect travel, pubs, restaurants, swimming pools and cinemas.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the clusters of new cases were of serious concern and described the restrictions as “limited”.

“Over the past 14 days 292 cases of Covid-19 have arisen in Kildare, Laois and Offaly. These represent almost half of all cases detected in Ireland during that time.

“These measures are being put in place to protect the vulnerable in these counties as well as to stop the spread of the virus.

They are in place for two weeks from midnight tonight (Friday) until midnight on Friday, August 20. The situation will then be reviewed,” the Taoiseach said.

Travel and transport

You can only travel within your county, other than for the following reasons:

  • to travel to and from work where that work cannot be done from home
  • to attend medical appointments, collect medicines and other health products
  • for vital family reasons, like providing care to children, elderly or vulnerable people, but excluding social family visits
  • for farming purposes, food production or care of animals

You should not travel into any of these counties, other than for the reasons above, and you need to travel through these counties to get somewhere else. You should not stop in Kildare, Laois or Offaly unless for essential purposes.

Public and private transport

You should not use public transport unless it is absolutely necessary to do so, and where possible you should not share private vehicles with others from outside your household.

Education and childcare

The following services remain open with appropriate protective measures in place:

  • education and childcare
  • outdoor playgrounds, play areas and parks
  • Economic activity and work
  • Anyone in these counties who can work from home should work from home.

Social

Cafes and restaurants

  • All cafes and restaurants, including bars operating as restaurants, should only offer takeaway or delivery, or outdoor dining (maximum 15 people with strict physical distancing).
  • Hotels can remain open but must limit occupancy to essential non-social and non-tourist reasons. Existing guests can remain for the duration of their booking.

Indoor gatherings

  • All indoor gatherings should be restricted to a maximum of 6 people from no more than 3 households in total, while maintaining physical distancing.

Outdoor gatherings

  • Outdoor gatherings should be limited to a maximum of 15 people, while maintaining physical distancing.

Cultural and religious

  • All cinemas, theatres, casinos, betting shops, bingo halls, gyms, leisure centres, swimming pools, exercise and dance studios are required to close.
  • Attendance at a funeral service and burial or cremation ceremony should be limited to 25 outdoors. Indoor events connected to the funeral are limited to a maximum of 6 people.
  • Places of worship remain open for private prayer, while services are to be held online.

Sport

No sporting events or matches should take place, with the following exemptions:

  • non-contact training outdoors in a maximum group of 15 people may continue
  • professional and elite sports and horse-racing may continue behind closed doors
  • inter-county training (max 15 people) and fixtures may continue behind closed doors

Residential and healthcare facilities

*Visiting in long-term residential care facilities, acute settings and prisons will generally be suspended in the first instance with the exception of the most critical and compassionate circumstances (for example end of life).

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Connacht Tribune

Relocation homebuyers head to the west

Dara Bradley

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Clifden....popular destination.

The Coronavirus pandemic has encouraged a new exodus of homebuyers to relocate to the west, with remote working now a viable option for many employees.

Galway’s busiest auctioneer has noticed increased interest in properties in the city and county from workers relocating from Dublin, its commuter belt and the Midlands.

The availability of high-speed broadband, which can facilitate working from home, is a determining factor in many homebuyers’ decisions to move to the West.

But the high cost of renting remains the single biggest incentive for people to get on the property ladder, according to Niall Browne, senior sales negotiator at O’Donnellan and Joyce Auctioneers.

“People are paying such high rent that it’s the equivalent to a mortgage repayment and that’s when you buy. That’s the biggest incentive to buy – you’re not giving away dead money,” Mr Browne said.

The property market locally had quietened in the initial months of the Covid-19 lockdown – but it has been buoyant in the past two months in particular, he said.

Mr Browne suggested there was an element of pent-up demand for housing that was now being realised as the Covid lockdown restrictions focused people’s minds on their desire to purchase a home.

“We typically try to get eight to ten sales per month by private treaty, and we had 28 or 29 last month. The previous month was six and the previous month was eight. This month (July) we’re up to 26, and that’s outside of our auction,” he said.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. You can also purchase a digital edition here.

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Connacht Tribune

Nursing Homes shun student nurses over Covid fears

Stephen Corrigan

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Student nurses in Galway are facing financial doom as part-time employers shun those currently on work placement in hospitals over fears they are at high-risk of contracting Covid-19.

First year nursing student at NUI Galway Ciarán Mac an tSaoir told the Connacht Tribune that this had become a particular issue for first and second year students who would traditionally take on healthcare assistant roles in nursing homes, where the fear of spreading the virus is at fever pitch.

“After semester one in first year, you are essentially qualified as a healthcare assistant and a lot of students would take that up as an option. Since Covid-19 came in, a lot of work places are fearful of cross-contamination and that’s not unjustified.

“It’s very understandable that a nursing home wouldn’t want a student who might be going between five or six clinical areas in an acute hospital to be then coming into work in the nursing home,” said Mr Mac an tSaoir.

Nursing students, for whom a large proportion of their university experience is spent on unpaid work placement, spend up to 35-hours a week in a clinical setting and so that could mean them travelling between a Covid-19-free setting of a nursing home to a respiratory word in a hospital such as UHG, he explained.

However, this wasn’t a HSE policy but rather the decision of individual care facilities who were doing their best to ensure coronavirus was kept out.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. You can also purchase a digital edition here.

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