25th November 2014
Yesterday was the Annual Budget meeting of Wicklow County Council. We had a couple of weeks to trawl through the figures and to see if we could identify any savings or better ways of spending the income.
I had 3 proposals:
1) Fishing boats in Greystones Harbour
Motion: That WCC set aside a budget of 15k to subsidise the berthing charges of fishing vessels in the Marina at Greystones Harbour.
Following discussions with WCC regarding accommodating the fishermen into Greystones Harbours, it appears that the only public facilities available for them to berth/moor are moorings in the south harbour. These moorings are seasonal and would only be available to the fishermen from May to Sept (this is all subject to Council approval).
Other alternative berthings that are available are in the private marina. However, the cost of berthing here (yachts rates) is 3 or 4 times the cost of berthing in other Wicklow ports. This is a cost that I don’t believe should be borne by the fishermen. I put forward a motion that we set aside funding to subsidise boats berthing in the private marina over the winter months, when the public moorings are not accessible.
Motion outcome: Defeated. (I would like to thank all my Greystones colleagues who supported me in this motion).
Motion: That WCC ring fence a portion of the NPPR to allow for the refunding of penalty payments to those individuals that can demonstrate that they are Accidental Landlords (ie owners of one property, in negative equality, where they rent elsewhere).
The NPPR is the Non Principle Property Residents charge – it was also known as the second home charge. It was a self-declaring charge and many individuals were not aware that they were liable until mid-August 2014, when they had already accrued significant liabilities. If you hadnt paid your charge of 200e per year from 2009 (up to a total of 1,000e), by August you owed 4,220e – a penalty payment of 3,220 e! This increased to 7,230e on the 1st September. The penalties for non-payment were extortionate.
Even though this charge was known in the media as the Second Home Charge, you were liable if you only owned one home but didn’t live in it. This means that those individuals that were forced to rent out their own homes, because they could no longer afford to live in them, were liable. I don’t believe this is fair. I don’t think it is fair to tax someone that cannot afford to live in their own home and must pay rent elsewhere (or live with their parents) in the same manner as you would tax a property investors.
Motion outcome: My proposal (included in a proposal by Cllr. Joe Behan regarding the NPPR payments) was defeated.
3) Grant position
Motion: That WCC present a business case to the Department for a derogation on the hiring embargo to employ a person solely responsible for the identification and application of grants across the entire portfolio. This contract should be a short-term contract, with funding targets included.
Wicklow’s grant income is 19% of its total income. This compares poorly with other counties. I believe that having a dedicated person to find and apply for grants would increase the income into WCC and reduce out reliance on money coming from commercial rates.
Motion outcome: This was postponed to be further discussed at the January meeting.