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County Council passes 2023 budget

CLARE County Council has this evening passed a budget for 2023. The Council’s spending will increase by €13.3 million next year, up to €151.9 million, but an increase in commercial rates has been avoided. An extra €1.9 million is going to be spent on energy next year, reflecting very high levels of inflation in the market. The Council’s head of Finance Noeleen Fitzgerald said that things are increasingly challenging and discipline will be required next year. “It was one year that it was very difficult to get a balanced budget, but I feel that the hard work will start now,” she warned. In his address to the members, Council Chief Executive Pat Dowling said that climate change, inflation, war and the legacy of the pandemic are posing a huge amount of challenges. He said that the Council has to be responsible in its budgeting. “We must not simply balance figures that are not based on reality.” Mr Dowling said that …

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Finance expert: Targeted Budget has kept eye on the future

WHILE it was a giveaway budget, Paschal Donohoe did take a measured approach and kept an eye on the future, according to Tommy Corbett of Ennis company Carey Corbett Financial Solutions. “In the main it was a very targeted approach. They wanted to look after those on social welfare and the lower paid, but also targeted towards the squeezed middle, and those with children in university,” he said. Regarding those on social welfare, he said, “There’s a €12 increase in the rate of social welfare and the pension. There’s also an increase in the fuel allowance of €400 as far as I know, and they’ve also widened the net for those applying for the fuel allowance. There’s something like 80,000 more people will be able to apply for fuel allowance.” And what measures will benefit the so-called squeezed middle? “The increase in the tax band from when you go from paying 20% to 40%, that went up by €3,200. If …

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Former Active Retirement president slams Budget treatment of old people

A FORMER national president of Active Retirement Ireland, Shannon’s Kay Murphy was far from happy with Tuesday’s budget. A €5 increase in the State pension and a €3 increase in the living alone allowance were some of the headline items affecting older people, but they didn’t impress Kay. “We were expecting a little bit more dignity in our lives, that we wouldn’t be left on the poverty line. The €5 increase, it doesn’t bear thinking about. As for the €3 living alone allowance, that’s a total insult altogether. “At the moment it’s (the living alone allowance) €19 and it’ll go to €22. But when you’re living alone after being married and you’ve buried your spouse, you lose nearly half a pension. “Your expenses don’t go down, you’re still at the same level. It doesn’t bear thinking about, it doesn’t make up for it at all. “There are so many older people now bordering on poverty that it’s absolutely shocking. The …

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concern over €30 million council overdraft

Concern has been expressed about the scale of a €30 million overdraft for Clare County Council, which was approved at a recent local authority meeting. This comes as the council has to deal with a potential deficit of €19.7 million as a result of the collapse of economic activity during the Covid-19 pandemic. Having raised questions about the financial impact of Covid-19 on the local authority’s income, Councillor Pat Hayes said the size of this overdraft showed how the authority’s finances are under serious threat. Councillor Hayes is concerned the council will lose a lot of income as a result of the lockdown from commercial rates, the Cliffs of Moher and parking, which should result in equivalent funding from the government to prevent cutbacks. He said continuing with a €30 million overdraft over the coming years is not sustainable on an ongoing basis without additional government financial support. “There is a major headache for local authorities in the future in …

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Ennis Town Council on the way back?

ENNIS Town Council could be set for a return. Clare County Council CEO Pat Dowling told a meeting of Ennis councillors that in discussions taking place around the possible reintroduction of some local authority structures, “Ennis is most definitely being earmarked”. He was speaking at a meeting to consider the budgetary plan for the Ennis Municipal District. He outlined that the county capital’s position in the national planning framework strategy and its size strengthen Ennis’ position for a return of a local authority structure. Fianna Fáil has been pushing for the return of the local authorities, introducing a bill to that effect earlier this year. Town councils were abolished in June 2014 when the Local Government Reform Act was implemented in a move that drew much criticism. Meanwhile, it was also agreed at the meeting that the Ennis Municipal District would have €274,400 of discretionary funding to spend. Mr Dowling stated, “The general municipal allocation for 2017 for the Ennis …

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Few surprises in Budget 2015

The higher rate of income tax will decrease by 1% while the amount a person can earn before entering the higher tax bracket has also increased under Budget 2015 announced today by Minister for Finance Michael Noonan. The income tax standard rate band will increase by €1,000 to €33,800 for a single person and changes will be introduced to the Universal Social Charge which will mean workers earning less than €12,000 will not have to pay it. The higher rate of income tax will come down by 1% from 41% to 40% while the entry rate for the USC goes up from €10,000 to €12,000. The existing 2% USC rate will be brought down to 1.5% and the 4% rate will fall to 3.5%. A new 8% USC rate is being introduced for those earning over €70,000. The Minister announced the ending of the 0.6% Pension Levy at the end of 2014. The additional 0.15% Pension Levy introduced for 2014 …

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Town council counting the cost of legal challenges

ENNIS Town Council is facing legal bills totalling more than €500,000 defending two separate High Court challenges to national legislation and regulation. A case involving a challenge to the Ennis Casual Trading Bylaws 2011 has resulted in an overall cost of €147,000 to the council. A separate challenge regarding the deregulation of taxis, currently awaiting decision in the High Court, is expected to cost around €400,000. The figures were released during this week’s meeting of Ennis Town Council to agree its budget for 2014. Town manager Ger Dollard stated the council is “seriously concerned regarding the number of cases falling to the council to defend but representing a challenge to national legislation and regulation”. Following a number of High Court hearings, the council secured a settlement in relation to the case taken regarding the Ennis Casual Trading Bylaws 2011, which represented a challenge to the Casual Trading Act 1995 and, in particular, the status of casual trading vis-a-vis market rights. …

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Ryanair deal to boost Shannon

THERE is strong speculation this week that a new deal between Shannon Airport and Ryanair is about to be announced, which could deliver a number of new routes and an extra 350,000 passengers next year. Ryanair has scaled back business at Shannon dramatically since 2008 and, on several occasions, placed the blame on the controversial air travel tax. In Tuesday’s Budget it was announced that the tax will be scrapped from the start of next April. On Wednesday, the low cost airline said it would increase its Irish business by at least one million passengers next year. After the Budget announcement, Ryanair outlined its plans. “Ryanair highlighted that since the travel tax was introduced in January 2009, traffic at the main Irish airports had declined from 30.5m passengers in 2008 to 23.5m in 2012. Ryanair believes that much of this traffic can now be recovered thanks to the abolition of the travel tax, which makes Ireland a more competitive and …

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