No reduction in Property Tax …More money for verge-trimming

There will be no change to the Local Property Tax (LPT) rates in Co. Roscommon next year, local councillors have decided.

At Monday’s monthly meeting of Roscommon County Council, politicians had the power to increase or decrease the rate by up to 15 per cent.

However they decided, almost unanimously, that due to the local authority’s financial constraints, they could not afford to reduce it.

That stance was recommended by Martin Lydon, the head of finance and planning, who said that it was the recommendation of the executive that there would be “no variation” to LPT next year.

He said that a 15 per cent reduction would result in a shortfall of €584,276 to the council, but that such a decrease would save 55 per cent of housholds in the county only 26 cent per week.

That’s because 55 per cent of households pay the lowest LPT rate of €90. The only councillors who did not support Mr Lydon’s stance were Cllr. Michael Mulligan, of Sinn Féin, and Cllr. Valerie Byrne, an Independent.

They proposed reductions of 15 per cent and 5 per cent respectively. Neither of their proposals were seconded, however. A major row broke out between Cllr. Byrne and Cllr. Paschal Fitzmaurice, of Fianna Fáil, over the matter.

After Cllr. Byrne proposed the reduction, but also complained of a lack of services in the county, Cllr. Fitzmaurice said: “From where? You can’t want more services on the one hand and a cut in property tax on the other.”

Cllr. Byrne responded: “You should be with the people.” Cllr. Fitzmaurice, visibly irate, said: “How dare you say that. I am always with the people. Withdraw that.”

The Cathaoirleach of the council, Cllr. Paddy Kilduff, attempted to restore order to the heated exchange, ringing a bell and proceeding with the meeting.

It was ultimately agreed that although there would be no change to LPT next year, an additional €30,000 would be set aside for verge-trimming in each municipal district – Athlone, Boyle and Roscommon. Numerous councillors said that overgrown greenery was causing a major safety hazard throughout the county.

‘In Roscommon, nobody seems to be cutting hedges’

The long-running debate over an apparent lack of verge-trimming in Co. Roscommon took a new twist this week when it was said that the problem was being worsened by landowners refusing to cut their own hedges.

At Monday’s monthly meeting of Roscommon County Council, various councillors once again expressed safety concerns over the amount of overgrown greenery throughout the county. In order to address the situation, an additional €90,000 was allocated from the local authority’s 2016 budget towards verge-trimming.

Yet Eugene Dwyer, a senior engineer, told the meeting part of the problem was due to farmers’ not maintaining their hedges, as they are legally obliged to. “In Roscommon, nobody seems to be cutting hedges,” he said. “They are the responsibility of the landowners, not the local authority. “We are spending a lot of time and money cutting hedges as well as verges.”

Mr Dwyer said that seven tractors were deployed to verge-trimming at the moment, which amounted to considerable resources. “I could have 20 tractors at the moment and I wouldn’t get all of the verge-trimming done because of the time cutting hedges, which people should be doing themselves,” he said.

“It’s very awkward when we go cutting verges that we have to press the hedges on both sides of the roads first, which could take two or three runs, whereas you could cut the verge in one run and cover miles more road.”

Mr Dwyer raised the prospect of issuing enforcement orders to those landowners who refused to comply with rules.

However, Fine Gael councillor John Naughten said many residents were simply unaware that hedge maintenance was their responsibility. He said: “We need to work in conjunction with the IFA (Irish Farmers’ Association) in relation to raising the farmers’ awareness, rather than enforcement orders being sent out.”

However, Cllr. Naughten implied that such orders should be issued in cases where there was “a refusal to address the situation.”