Thursday, 14th December 2017
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Michael Garland,

bizBoost Chair,

Waterford Business Group

It’s "Oh So Quiet!"

"Sssh, sssh, it’s oh so quiet....sssh, sssh and so peaceful until..." are the words from the first verse of that wonderfully weird, Icelandic singer Bjork’s, 1995 song. A year I remember very, very well. This was the year I would marry an Irish lassie and through the fickle fate of fortune, ultimately end up living here, in Waterford City. Settling with my young family, in January 2001 and I have no intention of moving on.

My during my time to date in Waterford there have been a number of issues constantly courting media attention. Cementing Waterford City as the economic gateway to the South East. Delivering University status for the WIT and not may I add to this argument not a fudged "Technological" status. The full Scotch Bonnet chilli version, with ALL the associated kudos. More importantly, with the necessary funding bells and whistles. Giving our youth the very same third level opportunities to enrol at a REAL university, just like the other four cities in Ireland. A regional hospital which provides "Adequate" services for the half a million population in the region. Finally, our fare share of IDA Foreign Direct Investment into Waterford, to service our economy.

The recently published statistics, by the IDA themselves, detailing activity for 2017 are inexcusable and indefensible. Only "Four", yes "4", visits in the first six months of this year! Quite clearly we need to work harder on our visibility. Not only did our NHS mobile catheterisation laboratory struggle to find us, but the IDA is now having trouble pinpointing Waterford on an Ordnance Survey map.

If Ireland Inc’s economic recovery is "Well underway", according to Leo, it’s incomprehensible that Waterford has received only 0.016% of total potential FDI visits. Why is our Government Minister and absent TD, not screaming and shouting about this s*"@e statistic?

My calculator actually coughed with embarrassment, when trying to work out such a low, low percentage! No matter how much spin you put on this figure, it must indisputably show that Waterford is being ignored and quite literally wiped off the map, in terms of REAL regional development.

Yet, it is against this myopic back drop, we are seeing Local Property Tax to be increased by 2.5 % in 2018. The suggested proposal was 10%!!!! Commercial Rates will likely face a significant increase, in the forthcoming final Council budgetary meetings. Where are the people living who are making theses decision on our behalf? Are they living in such a cosseted, cocooned financial bubble that increases are irrelevant, given their own financial circumstances?

Last week I wrote about the Council’s very own Indecon Report. This delivered an irrefutable argument for central exchequer funding, for our Strategic Development Zone on the North Quays. This report outlined just how tough our current economic circumstances are. When you add in the lack of IDA interest in Waterford, is it any wonder that our fragile economic recovery is miles behind the rest of Ireland? It cannot come as any surprise, that we have some of the lowest disposable incomes of any of the regions.

Yet, we constantly allow others to take more and more of our hard earned cash from our pockets, without as much as a whimper!

Lots of people are shocked and annoyed about having to pay more LPT and many have told me this is the case. Has anyone actually contacted their local Councillor and asked them "Why my LPT is going up?" "What is the increase actually paying for?" I am sure we would all, albeit reluctantly, pay a little bit more if this would ensure better services, better roads, better footpaths etc. Is that what this increase is essentially paying for? Are there not indications that all these budgetary lines are remaining the same, as in 2017?

Last week, we also saw the release of the much lauded National Planning Framework document, showing many new key performance indicators for Waterford. Regrettably, the language used, is once again far too vague on delivery. I for one, won’t be holding my breath, awaiting these miracles, for I’d surely suffocate!

Our perplexing ability, not to question so many of these issues, ensures that we will continue to remain on the bottom rung of the funding ladder.

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