Sunday, 22nd October 2017
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Michael Garland,

bizBoost Chair,

Waterford Business Group

What if your Local Property Tax was to go up?

"Well boi", it’s that time of year once again! Behind the closed, locked doors of City Hall and Dungarvan Civic Offices, our 32 Councillors will be, should be, fiddling with their calculators. (This is not a euphemism!) They’re deciding the Waterford City and County budget for 2018. But just what might this mean for you, the reader?

The actual process of passing and approving a "Balanced budget" is rather strange. As there is so much of the Executives’ budget that is quite literally "Untouchable". In fact our Councillors can only change, alter or influence a rather small percentage of a much larger circa €130,000,000 budget. With the Lansdowne-Haddington-kick-the-can-down-the-Road agreements coming on stream, we could see pressure being heaped on our Council to contribute more to budgetary areas. Expected pay and pension increases that may not actually be covered by additional, supplementary central exchequer grants/funds. This of course means you and I have to pay for this.

You might recall, that our local news and media, covered many column inches, giving lots of radio snippets, about just how there could be absolutely NO Local Property Tax (LPT) or Commercial Rates increases for 2017. The Councillors agreed that the timing was NOT right!

What has changed in our economic outlook that makes increase charges to LPT and Commercial Rates, a very realistic possibility for 2018?

Look at highly regarded reports, such as the WIT "South East Economic Monitor" and more recently the Council’s very own, Indecon "Economic Cost Benefit Appraisal of the Waterford City Urban Renewal Scheme". The Indecon document is the actual report, commissioned by the Council, submitted to Government for circa €61,000,000 of exchequer funding. Income that would make possible the alteration to infrastructural groundwork. Which in turn, would allow Saudi Arabia’s Fawaz Alhokair Group, to build on our Strategic Development Zone, on the North Quays.

Both of these reports detail and outline, in no uncertain terms, Waterford City/County and the wider South East region have some way to go, to catch up on the rest of the country’s "Green shoots of recovery". In fact the gulf, excuse the pun, between some of the economic indicators is, in truth, quite jaw dropping. Disposable income, percentage of the population at risk of poverty, labour force participation rates, unemployment rates, third level attainment....and more besides, make for some incredibly grim reading.

But then we all know that the South East has been neglected by successive Governments for year, after year, after year.

The statistics produced, make an exceptionally compelling and concrete case for Government support for the Alhokair Group’s plans for the North Quays. I do hope that this money is forthcoming from this current Government. Kick starting a REAL recovery in Waterford and the wider South East region. One would also hope that any infrastructural funding would find its way to Waterford. Much, much faster than our rented, National Health Service mobile catheterisation laboratory did! (It has arrived! But then again you would know this, due to the "Trumpeting", by a few on social media).

Oh and we must remember that with a local council election scheduled for 2019, next year is realistically, the only opportunity that our 32 brave men and women have, to impose punitive increases. Increases on both our LPT and that other easily reached cash cow, Commercial Rates. After all who would want to be imposing unpopular increases, when disproportionate door knocking is already pencilled into the diary?

Any increase, no matter how small, will affect our particularly local economy. Businesses and households are already extraordinarily tight for money, facing continued huge increases in car insurance, rising back to school costs, a spiralling cost of living, fuel expenses for both car and home inflating. Business overheads are also rising disproportionately, thus not reflecting where Waterford’s economy presently sits. The previously mentioned reports, back up just how tight we ALL are for money and disposable income is as rare as hen’s teeth.

What are we to do if increases are imposed by our elected 32 for 2018? Simply ask them directly; "Why should I be paying more?" Above all, it’s imperative you take an interest in what your Councillors are doing for you and Waterford.

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