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 Naas Area Representative, James Lawless, has expressed concern over the government’s choice of site for the childrens’ hospital and has expressed reservations on the city centre location chosen in Dublin 8.
"Accident and Emergency" Corridor?
“A great many people from the Naas Area and across North Kildare will have had occasion to visit Tallaght hospital with their children and most will have found it accessible, clean, efficient and convenient” said James. “I have been to Tallaght hospital on a number of occasions with my own children” James outlined “and the location served North Kildare very well. I am concerned at the impact the new city centre site will have on accessibility. As far back as 2008 I wrote to the then childrens’ Minister, Barry Andrews, to express my concerns over the impact on North Kildare of taking childrens’ services out of Tallaght and into the city centre. Now we have a different site but the same issue and I feel an opportunity has been missed to site it so as to serve the whole country. I have concerns about the additional travel time and accessibility difficulties now that a city centre location has again been preferred”.
My own view would have been that the Connolly site at Blanchardstown would have been a better bet not just to serve Naas, but the entire rest of the country who could have accessed it via the motorway network. Burying it right in the middle of the city is going to make life so much more difficult for all those travelling from outside Dublin compared to the convenience of any of the competing sites situated along the M50. Especially given that Naas hospital does not admit children into A&E – will emergency child cases now have to be battle through traffic into the city centre to be seen?” asked James in conclusion.
So Big Phil finally published his ‘opus magnus’ yesterday with all the detail on local government reforms including abolition of town councils, levelling of councillor ratios across the country and creation of much bigger wards in Dublin and the commuter belt.
Still trying to digest it all (it’s a big document!) but my first impressions are as follows:
The changes to standardise population to councillor ratio across the country are very welcome. Kildare will benefit from this – previously Kildare had far few representatives per population while much smaller counties had more.
The Town Council system had too many anomalies to continue as was; some towns had councils, others didn’t with little regard for population size –was all based on history. It was either expand or abolish. Though I am not convinced of the cost savings – I considered Town Councils fairly harmless but they did provide 9 dedicated representatives at low cost to each town and are now gone.
Moves to provide direct government funding/taxation are welcome and positive – but any new taxes must be progressive and based on ability to pay – not like the household charge etc. Essential that councils run the collection properly also again unlike the household charge.
More power for local government is welcome as is more accountability.
“Family friendly” measures are mentioned mainly targeted at women. Reform would be welcome for anyone who has to work outside the council; current structures mean majority makeup of councils are self-employed or retired people; very hard to combine involvement in politics with a regular PAYE job (which then limits the type of decision makers we elect). See here for previous thoughts on this.
We will see changes all across Kildare – every council ward will gain councillors as the town councils will go. Will do some numbers on this but looks like Naas going to 8 or 9 seats (but Naas town council gone of course), Clane could double to 8 or 9, Celbridge already at 6 may grow to 7 (losing Maynooth to Clane area) and Kildare and Athy becoming 7 or 8 seaters also as Athy and Newbridge town councils are subsumed into the new structures.
References to Mahon and planning corruption are a bit self-serving; If Big Phil really wanted to tackle this he wouldn’t have cancelled the planning inquiries right around the country including his own back yard. But still, politics aside, it all appears to be a step in the right direction.
In the wake of the emergency subvention of €36 million announced for CIE, Fianna Fáil’s local area representative for Naas, James Lawless, has criticised Irish Rail management and said they need to innovate to succeed in today’s climate.
Ireland's Railways need strategic thinking fast
“I’ve always been a fan of public transport” explained James, who is also a spokesperson for the Naas and Sallins Rail User Group. “I use the train to Dublin almost every working day and when it’s done right there is no better way to travel” according to James.
“But you sometimes wonder what commercial acumen, if any, do Irish Rail apply to their operation or whether they employ any strategic considerations. We’ve been told their revenue is under pressure because the numbers are dropping and that rings true. But they must realise the prices they are charging are causing that drop-off as well. It’s not so bad on a commuter ticket but they are simply not competitive for day trippers or casual users. Compared with the bus or even taking the car, their fares are far steeper” claimed James.
“Their pricing structures are still rooted on the old tram lines from the beginning of the last century” explained James. “That’s apparently why it costs a couple of euro to travel from Hazelhatch or Maynooth but an extra tenner to travel one stop further onto Sallins. It’s not justifiable today. Also most businesses including hotels and airlines discount seats approaching departure as better a full house on half fare than an empty one at the same cost. The train is going anyway, surely half a loaf would be better than no bread” claimed James.
“Another example is the service quality on certain routes. The Wexford ‘commuter’ line takes two hours by train on a distance no longer than Portlaoise or Drogheda which take an hour. This is on a now primary commuter corridor and also what is a popular Summer base from which so many travel to the capital daily”.
“The ongoing fiasco regarding shelters at Sallins station also makes you wonder. It’s literally hard to see where the shelters will actually fit when they are hopefully installed. They will have to dismantle newly erected structures to make room. It beggars belief that they could spend all that money and end up with almost a worse station than they started with” concluded James.
FF Appoints Local Area Representative for Naas Electoral Area – Martin
Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin has announced the appointment of James Lawless as a Local Area Representative for the Naas Electoral Area as part of the party’s ongoing renewal strategy.
Deputy Martin said: “I am delighted to announce that James Lawless will be a Local Area Representative for the party in Naas. The Kildare North constituency is a key target area for the party and I recently announced the appointment of Áine Brady as a Local Area Representative for the Clane Electoral Area.
“I have been delighted to see the energy and commitment displayed at all levels of the party at meetings I have held in Kildare and around the country. I am committed to ensuring that Fianna Fáil renews from the grassroots and that all levels of the party have significant input into policy development. It is essential that Fianna Fáil continues to play a constructive and positive role in politics, bringing forward policies and solutions to the problems being faced by people in their daily lives and ensuring there is a strong team on the ground in all communities.”
James Lawless lives in Sallins where he is married with a young family and is involved with several community groups. He is a campaigner and spokesperson for the commuter group Naas and Sallins Rail Users, he is also involved with Sallins GAA and several local community organisations.
James studied Maths and Finance at Trinity College and has over a decade’s experience working in systems development. James is now training as a Barrister at Kings Inns. He is a member of the Fianna Fáil Ard Comhairle and was recently appointed to party’s internal Justice Policy Committee.
James Lawless said: “It is an honour to be appointed a Local Area Representative for Fianna Fáil in the Naas Electoral Area. I see this as an important step in the party’s local and national renewal strategy. I am looking forward to working alongside Councillor Willie Callaghan who has been elected as Mayor of Naas. Willie is playing a crucial role in representing the community and Fianna Fáil on Naas Town Council and Kildare County Council.
“James has actively campaigned for community facilities including the successful zoning of lands back to amenity use in the last round of local area plans. James was very involved in flood relief efforts when Sallins and surrounds were hit by severe weather and flooding in late 2009.”
Cllr. Callaghan commented: “There is a genuine commitment from grassroot members of Fianna Fáil to make sure the party is rebuilt and that the voices of ordinary people in our communities in Naas are listened to as we go about that process. I welcome James’ appointment and I think he will be an important asset to the party in Naas Electoral Area.”