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No Property Tax cut for Galway householders

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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.

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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