The Property Tax Exemption list published today (21st March 2013) bears little relation to reality according to James Lawless, Fianna Fáil’s Local Area Representative for the Naas Area, North Kildare.
James conducted research last year to uncover that 85 named estates within County Kildare had been refused provision of maintenance services by the County Council as they were deemed unfinished. James had anecdotal suspicions of estates being “cut off” from council maintenance and he confirmed this was the case when he pursued the issue via Freedom of Information requests last autumn.
The total list of estates not taken in charge across the county is into the hundreds says James. “Residents are now in the situation where they are literally looking out into darkness as the Council refuses to service their estate or fix basic faults such as public lighting” said James “and yet at the same time they are being asked to pay the full whack for property taxes with zero exemptions”.
“The Property Tax legislation contains a specific provision for unfinished estates to be exempted. I wrote to the Minister, enclosing the FOI listings of unfinished estates in County Kildare, requesting they be exempted under this provision. It beggars belief not a single one in that list have qualified”. “These estates are in the double whammy of not receiving public service and yet being on the hook for the full property tax. It seems illogical, unfair and at total odds with the provisions in the Act itself. They are unfinished when it comes to services but not when it comes to taxes it seems” said James.
“The household charge exemptions from last year appeared more to do with pot luck than any coherent criteria in terms of which estates were eligible and which weren’t. This year’s list simply beggars belief – regardless of service provision, completion status, whether or not taken in charge, all of those estates are now to be liable for the tax – it is at least consistent – equally unfair to all”.
Fianna Fáil’s Representative for the Naas area, James Lawless, has this week written to the Minister for Housing seeking exemptions against the property tax for up to 85 Kildare estates in line with maintenance records he received last year under the Freedom Of Information acts.
Property Tax - "A Local Tax for Local Service" ?
“As we now know Kildare County Council gave an order last year that 85 estates, not taken in charge, be removed from the maintenance regime, so that when the lights went out, they stayed out, in all of those estates. Broken bulbs would not be replaced and maintenance services were suspended” explained James. (Details here)
“I have now written to the Department of Environment seeking exemptions against the Property Tax for all of the affected estates.I think it is a bit much to ask people to pay a property tax for local services when they are looking out at broken lights and dark streets. In some cases residents are paying privately for their maintenance, others have a management company in place and some are not being maintained at all by anyone. Where there are management companies in place some townhouses are paying up to €700 a year for private services yet the government want to hit them again supposedly to pay for services which they are not even receiving in these estates” said James.
“Under section 10(4) of the Finance (Local Property Tax) Act 2012 there is a provision for estates deemed ‘unfinished’ to be exempted from the property charge. As the council evidently considers these estates unfinished it seems a fair assumption that no property taxes should be levied on them. It is not the council who decides however but the government and while a very small number of Kildare estates were exempted from the household charge last year, that list of exemptions bore little resemblance to realities on the ground in many cases. I want to make sure this error is not repeated and that the 2013 list is based on reality and drawn up with local consultation. The Minister for Housing is currently compiling the list of exempted estates and I have written to her to request exemptions for these estates and to share my records of the situation in each case” James continued.
“Last year’s exemption list appeared to be based as much pot luck as on reality.”
“The residents of these estates are compliant citizens. In the great many cases they paid their household charge and then found out they were cutoff from services regardless. If the estates are unfinished and not being maintained surely they cannot be held liable for the property tax. I look forward to the Minister’s response and hope that logic and fairness will see these estates, and others like them, exempted” concluded James.
Three public meetings were held in recent weeks, one in Kilteel and two in Kill, following the Garda station closure, and positive outcomes have been achieved.
The meetings were organised by Fianna Fáil’s Naas Area Representative, James Lawless, to allow the community discuss the issues and explore the options. “We have made some progress” said James “amidst concern and alarm at the outset when the village was left exposed, we have now taken steps as a community to advance measures of self-help”.
Speakers at the Kill Public Meeting
“Any doubts about the strength of local concerns were dispelled when we collected over 400 signatures on a petition in the space of a few days” said James. “However these closures are a government decision and whilst we oppose them, they remain outside our control – how we respond to them however is in our control and I am satisfied we have made positive progress in playing the hand we’ve been dealt.”
The first of the public meetings saw Fianna Fáil Justice Spokesman Niall Collins TD outline party protest to the closures nationally and the second public meeting saw Superintendent Pat Mangan from Naas Station offer Garda guidance on the new arrangements. “The Superintendent outlined measures which he will oversee to ensure a continued policing presence in the area and I want to thank him for his attendance on the night and engagement with the community” said James. “I would also like to thank Fr. Willie and Kill parish for very kindly making available a location where we have organised a weekly Garda clinic can be held for people to get forms signed or have access to a local Garda on a scheduled basis.”
A community alert is now being established also and a committee now begins the work of setting up the scheme. The committee will be seeking input from each of the estates and townlands to a achieve coverage across the village so as to maximise efficiency of the scheme.
A final meeting took place in the Kilteel Inn with speakers from community alert schemes elsewhere and an alert scheme is to be setup covering Kilteel / Eadestown / Rathmore following on from that meeting also.
Any interested parties are invited to contact James Lawless on 086 834 8869 to find out more information or to join up to the alert schemes in either locations.
I was delighted to host a very productive meeting last Tuesday night in the Dew Drop Inn, Kill, to discuss the fallout from the planned closure of Kill Garda Station and neighbouring stations along the Kildare / Wicklow border. I organised the meeting because I have major concerns that the government is taking away Garda resources at a time when commuter belt crime levels are clearly on the increase. People needed real reassurances that they will not be left high and dry. The government are closing stations at Kill, Ballymore Eustace, Hollywood, Donard and Ballitore which to my mind leaves a whole belt of territory wide open and vulnerable to attack.
The meeting drew a crowd of about 50 locals and guest speakers were Niall Collins TD, Fianna Fáil spokesman on justice and Jim Brady, a Newbridge based home security expert. Representatives from Kill Tidy Towns and most of the estates in the village also were in attendance at the meeting.
Fianna Fáil party policy remains very much against these closures and as said, I am not convinced at all of the rationale behind these closures, we have heard figures as low as 2,500 euro a year to keep Kill station open, yet the government seem intent on dismantling the garda network here and elsewhere across the country. It’s quite stark when the Garda Representative Association have had to raise their concerns about a running down of the force.
I do think it’s very important however, that there is a need to more than just bang the table, but rather to work with the local community to find solutions also. One very productive action from the meeting was that we would setup a community alert scheme in the village. That process is now in train and everyone signed up on the night. McGreal’s pharmacy kindly agreed to host a signup sheet and I would invite anyone with an interest in these matters to drop in and leave their name and details and get involved or people can contact me directly using this link if they want to get involved.
I will be scheduling a second, follow up meeting, over the next couple of weeks to get the alert scheme off the ground and I am also in ongoing contact with Superintendent Pat Mangan in Naas station on these issues in Kill and surrounds.
If you were parking at Sallins train station over the past fortnight you may have been in for a nasty new year’s surprise if you came back to find your car clamped on your first day back. It turns out NCPS car parks who operate the Naas side station car park, increased the fees from one to two euro daily over the break but forgot to let people know about it. Not only did they not give adequate notice of the price increase, they then began to clamp people who hadn’t observed it!
It seems a few labels were placed on the parking meters but people who had being used to paying the previous fare for the past two years and who are typically parking in early morning and running to catch their train, not surprisingly, had not stopped to notice the changes in small print on the machine they had been using daily for the past two years.
Anyway all is now well that ends well as when I approached the management agents to put the case for the “clamped commuters” they in fairness to them did see the other side and put their hands up to say that the clamping was excessive. They agreed a sticker or warning notice would have been more appropriate to reflect the new parking charges at least over the transition period. As a goodwill gesture anyone clamped in the first two weeks of operation of the new fare can now apply here for a refund from NCPS.
The period for which refunds are available is January 1st to January 14th – so if you came back to find a wheel bracket wrapped around your front tyre in that time, apply now to avail of the refund. And from this point on at least everyone should now know the new fares!