Both Galway City and County Councils are unlikely to have any windfall to return to homeowners when the property tax goes directly into local authority coffers next year.
There have been reports nationally that Galway City Council could benefit financially once the Local Property Tax (LPT) replaces central Government funding and other grants from 2015.
Under the legislation, councillors have the power to reduce the LPT by up to 15% in the event the local authority has a sufficient surplus generated by the tax.
Councils which are likely to find itself in that position are large urban centres with big population centres where homeowners have properties with higher values. Galway City Council was one of an estimated twelve council areas tipped to have a surplus once the change is enacted.
A motion from Sinn Fein seeking a 15% decrease in the LPT next year was tabled at the last City Hall meeting but it was not debated as a consultation process about whether such a decrease was warranted had already begun.
The Council has called for public submissions by August 18 on the potential effects of varying the basic rate of LPT on businesses, individuals and on local authority services. The matter will then be decided by councillors at the September meeting.
Head of Finance in the City Council, Edel McCormack, said based on the information the Council had received from the Department, its budget would remain the same.
“If we get 80% of the LPT as indicated by Government, it will just replace the Local Government Fund and other grants, it will have no positive or negative effect, it will be budget neutral,” she stated.
County Council cathaoirleach Mary Hoade said the process was flawed as the council had to notify the Revenue Commissioners whether it intended to vary the LPT without knowing how much funding it would receive from the Government.
“At the last corporate policy meeting the head of finance couldn’t say what we were going to get. We don’t know what the local government fund is going to be, yet we have to tell Revenue if we’re going to put it up or down. We’re being asked to do something in advance of knowing what the situation is.”
The Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin this week said there were about a dozen councils which would have a surplus in funding once the bulk of the property tax goes directly into local authority coffers.
While he declined to name the councils, he was basing his predictions on figures compiled by the Government which compare every council’s revenue this year with the funding they will receive when the local property tax goes local next year.
The remaining 20% will go into an equalisation fund to be distributed among the less well-off councils.
City Labour Councillor Billy Cameron said a 15% decrease in the LPT in this December’s budget was highly unlikely given its impact on a very tight financial situation.
“There is not a councillor presently sitting on Galway City Council who would not wish to implement a cut of !5% but the reality is that all cuts and increases of any sort must be costed and what their implications would be on the overall budget,” he stated.
“The Director of Finance has informed me that the estimated financial implications of a variation to the Local Property Tax for Galway City Council by +/- 15% would be in the region of €1.2 million.“
“We have a City budget of €80m and as Councillors last year we made adjustments in the region of a quarter of a million. Adjusting a budget by €1.2m would be a colossal move which could only be recouped by increases in commercial rates or a reduction in services, decreasing the roads budget or decreasing arts, sports and amenity grants.”
He added that a case could be made for a 3% decrease over the next five years but 15% in one budget will be a bridge too far for the majority of councillors.
Progress stalls on setting up Eating Disorder Community Health Team
Despite an increasing number of young people experiencing eating disorders, a new specialist community team has yet to be set up in Galway well over a year after it was announced.
The delay is mainly due to a difficulty recruiting a consultant psychiatrist to lead the team, this week’s HSE West Regional Health Forum meeting was told.
Councillor John Connolly (FF) queried the progress on the new Eating Disorder Community Health Team within the Child Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) after the HSE revealed in September 2021 that it would be set up in response to the hike in youths presenting for treatment.
Chief Officer of HSE Community Healthcare West, Breda Crehan-Roche, said interviews had been conducted to recruit a clinical lead, but so far none had been appointed. Six other staff had been appointed and these had been assigned to existing teams within CAMHS while a psychiatrist could come on board to manage the team.
“We have difficulty getting locum cover. Interviews were held. It’s a priority. We are doing a running recruitment process,” she told this month’s meeting.
It took between six and nine months to appoint a person to such a senior post.
“There is a lot of work in specialist intervention in the eating disorders team.”
She admitted that there were no records of how much of an increase there had been in referrals to CAMHS Galway for youths troubled by an eating disorder as all records were on paper rather than on computer.
“I can’t ask clinicians and therapists to pull together manual figures,” she stated. But the indication from staff on the ground was that there had been a downward trend in referrals post-Covid.
There was a move to keeping digital records by the middle of next year.
Retired Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan dies aged 78
Retired Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan has passed away at the age of 78.
Born in Kilkenny in 1944, Bishop Drennan studied for the priesthood at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth from where he was ordained in 1968
As a priest, the then Fr Drennan served as curate in both St. Mary’s Cathedral Parish in Kilkenny and then in Ballycallan.
From 1975 he taught Sacred Scripture at St. Kieran’s College, returning to Rome in 1980 to become Spiritual Director at the Irish College there for the next five years.
When Fr. Martin again returned home he became a Lecturer in Sacred Scripture at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth where he continued to teach until his appointment as Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin in 1997.
Following the retirement of Bishop James McLoughlin, Bishop Drennan was chosen as Bishop of Galway and Kilmacduagh and Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora and was installed on 3rd July 2005 in Galway Cathedral serving to his retirement in 2016.
A brief statement released by the Diocese of Galway this afternoon confirmed his passing and offered their sympathies to Bishop Drennan’s family and all those who mourn his loss.
Funeral arrangements for the late Bishop Drennan will be announced later
Gardaí appeal for help to locate missing man
Gardaí are seeking help from the public in locating a 66-year-old man who has been missing from Clonbur since Thursday.
Michael Harte is described as being 5’ 9” in height, of slim build with short grey hair. When last seen, he was wearing blue jeans, a blue jumper, a tan / khaki padded jacket and tan boots.
He is understood to have access to a black Renault Megane with a 02 C registration.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Clifden Garda Station on 095 2250, the Garda confidential line on 1800 666111 or any Garda station.