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‘Projects will suffer’ if city cuts Property Tax

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City councillors could find themselves in a ‘damned if they do and damned if they don’t’ situation on Wednesday when they vote on a reduction proposal for the Local Property Tax.

Sinn Féin are pressing for a ‘one swoop’ 15% reduction in the Local Property Tax that goes into the coffers of the City Council for the provision of local services and amenities.

But some councillors fear that if such a cut is made to the income of the City Council, important sports and amenity projects will end up once again going on the long finger.

“There isn’t a councillor in the city or indeed across the country who wouldn’t favour a 15% cut in the property tax, but I’m afraid that the reality of this will be, that some major sporting and amenity projects will suffer,” said Cllr. Billy Cameron.

He said that in the past he had seen the juggling and effort involved on the part of the City Council where adjustments of around €250,000 had to be made – if the full 15% cut was to be made, schemes would be impacted upon.

Cllr. Cameron said that while the 15% cut might be a populist stance for Sinn Féin to adopt, the Council would have to look at the implications for projects such as the St. James’ GAA club development, phase two of the Corrib Park amenity project and the provision of the artificial playing surface at Cappagh Park.

However Sinn Féin councillor, Cathal Ó Conchúir, told the Galway City Tribune, that the issue had to be looked in a national perspective and in the context of the whole principle of the tax.

“We will be seeking the full reduction in the local property tax. This has been an unjust tax based primarily on people’s debts as they struggle to pay off mortgages.

“We really are a people that are at exhaustion level with taxes. We have the pensions levy, the universal social charge, PRSI and we just threw another €150 million into consultants to set up Irish Water. It’s well time to shout stop,” said Cllr. Ó Conchúir.

A spokesman for the City Council said that there was a statutory obligation on the local authorities to take a decision on any alteration to the Local Property Tax rate before September 30.

“At the City Council meeting on Wednesday, we will be setting out in detail the implications of any changes in the Local Property Tax rate. We will have a ready-reckoner guide for councillors to indicate how any change in the rate will impact on our finances,” said the spokesman.

Earlier this month, Environment Minister Alan Kelly, outlined that 10 local authorities, including Galway City Council, would be able to implement the full 15% tax reduction and still retain a surplus.

From 2015, local authorities will receive 80% of the Local Property Tax directly, with the remaining 20% to go into an ‘equalisation fund’ aimed at propping up ‘poorer’ Councils.

CITY TRIBUNE

Concerns over reopening of Middle Arch on Tuesday

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A Galway City Councillor has given a cautious welcome but has also raised concerns over the reopening of the ‘Middle Arch’ beside the Claddagh Basin next Tuesday.

Access was closed to the public last May following requests from the Gardai due to large crowds that had gathered in the days previously amid fears of it becoming a serious health and safety risk.

The concerns were raised by Cllr. Niall McNelis who said that a cautious welcome should be given but that the possibility of closing it in evenings needs to be seriously looked at.

He said “The decision to close it was earlier in year was due to it had become an area where large groups had gathered drinking and had led to calls by locals that it had become a serious health and safety risk. The area also does not have safety barriers and this has led to persons falling into the water in the past.

“Recently there has been a large number of calls made that the area should be reopened and that public space be made available to the public.”

Cllr. McNelis also said that a cautious welcome should be given but that the possibility of closing it in evenings needs to be seriously looked at.

“We can not have the same scenes repeated as we did earlier this year and in previous years. House gardens and Claddagh church grounds were used as toilets and large amounts of litter mainly drink, was left behind. I have met a number of residents this weekend who are not happy with decision and calls have been made by them to have it closed in evenings by City Council and Gardai should assist in clearing area if needs be.

“We do not have enough Garda personnel to have proper policing in our city, we need more resources for the city to tackle and enforce anti social behaviour.

“I have met this week with Gardai and have been given assurances that this will be closely monitored and occasions such as exam results nights, freshers week and good weather will be monitored,” he said.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Council rows back on ‘reduced delays’ projections for Kirwan junction

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Motorists have described it as ‘a disaster’ and a former mayor has said the project gave very poor value for money, but Galway City Council have this week asked the public to be patient with the revamped Kirwan junction, close to the Menlo Park Hotel.

Since the four-arm signalled junction opened early last week, motorists have complained of traffic queues stretching back to the Quincentenary Bridge and Corrib Park.

And now the Council has rowed back on its consultants’ claims that the junction would increase capacity by 15% and reduce waiting times by 25%.

Former mayor and local taxi driver, Cllr Frank Fahy, told the Galway City Tribune that given the negative impact of the junction on traffic, the €5 million spent on the project represented ‘very poor value’ as regards taxpayers’ money.

“I will admit that the junction is now safer for pedestrians in that they can hit a button to give them a safe crossing, but since it opened there have some very serious traffic tailbacks,” said Cllr Fahy.

However, City Council Acting Director of Services for Transport, Uinsinn Finn, told the Galway City Tribune that the new junction needed time to ‘bed in’ with a familiarisation process.

“The main objectives of this project were to make far safer for pedestrians and cyclists to negotiate, as well as making it safer for motorists too, without impacting [negatively] on the traffic flow,” said Mr Finn.

He added that since it opened – and over the coming few weeks – data on all aspects of how the junction was functioning would be compiled which could involve changes to light sequencing, lanes and peak traffic flows.

One motorist who contacted this newspaper said that the daily “nightmare” journey from the Barna Road to the Headford Road during the morning peak traffic time had added up to 40 minutes to his journey time.

“The two lanes are regularly gridlocked from the junction, back the N6, over the Quincentenary Bridge and back to Corrib Park.

“In the mornings, it’s now easier to go down Taylor’s Hill and into town, past Eyre Square and up Bohermore to get down to the Headford Road.

Councillors were told by consultants in 2017 and again in 2018 – when they voted to proceed with the changeover to a junction – that average delays would be reduced by 25% and junction capacity would increase by 15%.
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

Man hospitalised following Eyre Square assault

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Gardaí have appealed to the public for information into an assault in Eyre Square last weekend which led to a young man being hospitalised.

The victim of the assault – a man in his early 20s from the city area – suffered a cut to his knee and may have had a substance sprayed towards his eyes.

Following the incident – that occurred close to the Eyre Square taxi rank shortly after midnight on Saturday night last – the victim was taken by ambulance to University Hospital Galway.

It is understood that the victim was released later that morning and has made a full recovery. This week, Gardaí are poring over CCTV footage in an effort to try and identify the perpetrators of the assault.

The assailants are understood to have fled on foot after the incident towards St Patrick’s Avenue on the east side of Eyre Square.

A Garda spokesperson has appealed for anyone who was in the vicinity of the taxi rank on Eyre Square between 12 midnight and 12.30am on the Sunday morning (Saturday night) of July 25 last, and who may have witnessed the incident to contact them.

(Photo: the assailants fled on foot towards St Patrick’s Avenue off Eyre Square)
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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