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No Property Tax cut for Galway householders

Denise McNamara

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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.

Connacht Tribune

Old mills set for new life as distillery

Declan Tierney

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An artist's impression of the new distillery.

An old corn mill in East Galway is set to be transformed into a €6 million whiskey and gin manufacturing distillery – once planning permission has been granted for the development.

And if approved, the distillery has the potential to create more than 15 new jobs directly in the village of Ahascragh, providing a huge economic boost to the area – and rescuing the old corn mill which ceased operation in the 1950s.

A planning application for the new brewery has just been submitted by Gareth and Michelle McAllister of McAllister Distillers in North Dublin, with a decision due before the end of the year.

Gareth McAllister told The Connacht Tribune that he intended to renovate the old building while retaining some of the old features such as a mill wheel, and utilise the stream that runs through the property.

The complex, as well as producing various styles of Irish whiskey and gin, will also include a visitor centre, rooms for hospitality events, a retail shop and cafe.

Read 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

Aer Arann marks half a century of linking islands to the mainland

Dara Bradley

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Current Aer Arann owners Jarlath Conneely (left) and Peter McKenna, pictured in front of their aircraft. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

When Coley Hernon of Cill Rónáin on Inis Mór wrote letters to newspaper editors in 1970, questioning why the Aran Islands couldn’t have an air service like that operating from many Scottish islands, a number of Galway businessmen responded to the challenge.

Among them were visionaries Jimmy Coen and Ralph Langan, who established a local airline, Aer Arann Islands – and on August 15, 1970 the first flight took place between Inis Mór and the Galway mainland, at Oranmore.

According to the Connacht Tribune archives, the inaugural flight of the twin-engine plane, which cost £40,000, carried ten people in all, including a number of Bórd Fáilte officials and tourism representatives.

“The weather was unkind and heavy mist and squally winds made for unpleasant conditions but nevertheless the inaugural flight went off according to schedule,” the Tribune newspaper report said at the time.

When they landed, they were greeted by members of Aran Islands Tourist Development Association at a new £20,000 airstrip at Killeaney.

That first commercial flight from Galway’s mainland to the Aran Islands will be commemorated this weekend, 50 years later.

From those humble beginnings, it’s a company that has faced turbulence during its five decades, not least in recent years when there was uncertainty over State supports (PSO, Public Service Obligation) for the service . . . but at its core has always been a sense of duty to serving islanders.

Read 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

Galway among counties least hit by Covid

Dara Bradley

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Galway has so far suppressed the spread of Coronavirus this summer – with the latest figures showing the county is one of the least affected in the Republic of Ireland in the past fortnight.

The number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 population stands at just 3.1 in Galway in the last two weeks, compared with the national average of 18.42.

Three of the counties plunged into a partial lockdown again last Friday – Laois, Kildare and Offaly – had cases per 100,000 over the past fortnight of 86.19, 146.51 and 123.14 respectively.

The rate in Clare was 28.62, Mayo was 6.32, Roscommon was 1.55, and Tipperary was 1.25.

In the past week, Galway surpassed the 500-mark for confirmed cases of Covid-19 since the pandemic struck in March.

None of them are now in hospital, according to the data.

In the week to Sunday, there were a total of three new cases confirmed in Galway, bringing the running total to 501. The previous week, there a total of five new cases.

On Tuesday of this week, both of Galway’s two public hospitals, University Hospital Galway and Portiuncula, were Covid-free, and were not treating any patients in wards or in ICU who were confirmed as having Covid-19.

Get all the latest coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. You can also purchase a digital edition here.

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