5% LPT hike blow defended
COUNCILLORS voted by majority in favour of increasing the Local Property Tax (LPT) for County Wexford residents by 5 per cent at a meeting of the local authority on Wednesday morning.
The move was supported by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour councillors. It represents the first increase in the Wexford LPT rate since its introduction in 2012. The increase in LPT will cost the average household in County Wexford just under €10 extra in 2017 or 18 cent per week.
Sinn Fein councillors proposed reducing the LPT rate by 3 per cent at the meeting, but the motion was defeated, as was a motion by Independent Cllr Davy Hynes to maintain the existing rate. This motion was supported by Sinn Fein. A suggestion by People Before Profit Cllr Deirdre Wadding to reduce the current LPT rate by 15 per cent was not voted on as she failed to get anyone to second her.
Wexford County Council Chief Executive Officer Tom Enright said the 5 per cent increase was needed to secure loans and funding for major projects across the county which will help to create jobs. He said investment of around €17m is planned over the coming two years, largely in the urban centres of Wexford, Gorey, Enniscorthy and New Ross.
'It is vital that we increase our investment activity in economic development and tourism promotion as these represent County Wexford's main job creation opportunities. We know from the extensive research that we have carried out that there is a severe shortage of property solutions to facilitate local companies growing or to attract new companies here and we need to lead and deliver these solutions where the private market has failed to do so.'
He continued: 'Unemployment is a real problem in County Wexford where the rate of unemployment is much higher than the national average and this places a major burden on the provision of public serices. Almost every household in the county has been impacted one way or another by unemployment or emigration. A large proportion of young people do not return to County Wexford after completing their third level education due to the lack of job opportunities in their home county. We can no longer wait endlessly for inward employment opportunities to come to Wexford - we must seek them out by investing in an economic development programme that will create a strong attraction for investors and jobs to our county and we must be the catalyst for the development of property solutions for existing Wexford-based companies to expand into.'
The Gorey projects include The Hatch Lab and Office Development which has a start date of next year, with the county council planning to contribute €500,000. €1m of council money is planned for the Gorey Park and Showgrounds over the coming two years, while €2.5m is earmarked for the Market House Redevelopment in 2017 and 2018.
In Enniscorthy €1m is due to be spent on a new busines park in 2017 and €2m is planned to be spent on town centre tourism development, while €1m is to be spent on the Templeshannon Revitalisation project. Both projects are planned for 2017 and 2018.
€4.25m is planned to be spent in New Ross in 2017 including €2m on an advance factory and enterprise centre in Butlersland just off the N25, €1m on the redevelopment of the New Ross Port site and €1m on town centre tourism development.
In the Wexford district €2m is earmarked to be spent on the Trinity Wharf retail, hotel and business development in Wexford town. €1m has been allocated to phase one of the Wexford quay redevelopment and €1m is planned for works at the new Min Ryan Park in Clonard.
€1m has been budgeted for town and village renewal projects, split evenly at €225,000 per district.
€600,000 will be raised by the rise in the LTP rate, €400,000 of which will be ringfenced for economic development, providing the council with leverage to borrow money for the projects. The remaining €200,000 will go towards funding road repairs across the county. Wexford County Council Chairman Paddy Kavanagh said: 'We obviously didn't want to increase the property tax charge but with the economic plan that was given to us we couldn't say no.'
Cllr Kavanagh said the councillors could have reduced the charge by 10 per cent, which would have been a popular decision, but that would have lead to a shortfall in funding elsewhere.
Cllr George Lawlor said: 'I saw this as a time when councillors were given the opportunity to be ambitious for Wexford. The focus is on attracting jobs for Wexford,' adding that funding is needed for places like Rosslare Harbour.