Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Brady urges Councillors to support campaign to develop a Skate Park in Bray

Wicklow Sinn Féin County Councillor John Brady has called on Bray Municipal District Councillors to support the campaign to get a Skate Park in Bray and commit to identifying a site so it can be constructed as swiftly as possible, to meet the needs of the large numbers of Skaters in the locality.

Speaking on the campaign, Councillor Brady said “There are huge numbers of Skaters in the Bray area and they have come together under the banner of the Bray Skaters Association with the sole purpose of getting a skate park developed in Bray. I’ve been working closely with the group and fully support the campaign. We have identified a funding source and we now need the support of the Bray Municipal District councillors to identify and agree a site so the project can move forward.”

“Following my request a delegation from the skaters is due to address the next council meeting in Bray. I hope that the other councillors in the Bray District also pledge their support to this campaign and commit themselves to identifying a site for the new Skate Park. There are a number of successful Skate Parks across the County and Bray is the largest urban area that hasn’t got one.”

Brady concluded “There is a huge demand for a Skate Park; unfortunately the skaters are constantly getting moved by council staff and Gardaí from locations that they meet to skate. Young people don’t all have the same interests, so it’s important that there are choices for them to ensure that they have some positive activity to engage in. Recently a skate jam was held on Bray seafront and up to 60 skaters took part, this highlighted the scale of the demand for a skate park in the town. In the past skaters in Bray had been given false hope, this time with the support of all councillors we can turn this into a reality.”

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Decision to increase Property Tax in Wicklow by 15% will hit struggling families

Wicklow Sinn Féin County Councillor and General Election candidate John Brady has stated that the decision to increase the Property Tax rate in Wicklow by 15% will hit low and middle income families across Wicklow hardest and impact detrimentally on the economy of Wicklow. Assurances were given by the Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly that Wicklow was one of six local Authorities that could cut the tax by the maximum of 15% without it impacting on local core services.

Speaking after the meeting the Sinn Féin Councillor said “The Labour Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly has given assurances that Wicklow was one of six local authorities that could cut the Local Property Tax by the full 15% which is allowed under the legislation without it impacting on local core services. Having received those assurances, Sinn Féin put forward a proposal to maintain the cut of 15% that had been agreed by the majority of the council last year. Unfortunately the Sinn Féin proposal was defeated by 22 votes to 8, with 2 councillors abstaining. A Fine Gael proposal to increase last year’s property tax rate by 15% was unfortunately supported by Fianna Fáil and a large number of Independents.”

Councillor Brady went onto explain the impact that the decision to increase the tax will have on families across Wicklow “The unfortunate decision to increase the Property Tax in Wicklow will hit struggling low and middle income families right across Wicklow, and potentially push them closer to homelessness. There were 120 house repossessions listed for Wicklow Circuit Court before the summer recess and a further 255 active bills for repossession. This increase in the unjust Property Tax will push many other families in debit, mortgage arrears and compound the financial difficulties they are experiencing.”

“The vast majority of people in Wicklow aren’t witnessing any recovery. The decision by Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Independent pact to increase the tax by 15% will suck a further €2,493,096 from the Wicklow economy which is still on its knees due to government cuts and increased taxes. Over €30 billion was taken out of the Irish economy by the austerity policies of Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail over the last 8 years.”

The Sinn Fein Councillor concluded “The Government duped the people on the Local Property Tax. The purpose of Local Property Tax is not about the funding of local services. The reality is that the local property tax is a tax that was created to aid the process of diverting finances from central government away from the funding of locals councils to the supporting of toxic banks. Sinn Féin remains opposed to this tax which is proving a complicated, regressive and insufficient way of funding our local democracies. Last year the majority of councillors in Wicklow supported a Sinn Féin motion opposing the Property Tax and called on the Government to provide adequate funding to council to provide critical services. Even though the majority of councillors in Wicklow appear to be speaking out of both sides of their mouth on the tax, Sinn Féin in government will abolish the property tax.”

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Homeless Crises is now a National Emergency and a National Disgrace

Speaking in response to comments made by the President of Focus Ireland, Sr Stanislaus Kennedy; the Sinn Fein candidate for Wicklow/East Carlow in the upcoming general election Councillor John Brady has said it is time for government to accelerate plans to build social housing.

“The situation is spiralling out of control in front of our very eyes. The numbers of homeless or those imminently at risk including families and children has rocketed over the last three years. According to Focus Ireland the number of people registering for help has increased from 8,000 in 2012 to 11,500 last year. By June of this year they registered 8,000 people in trouble meaning by the end of 2015 the situation could possibly become unmanageable”

Councillor Brady went on to say that the issue of providing social housing units has been ignored by successive governments:
“ We had years of Fianna Fail governments during the Celtic Tiger squandering public money with not a penny invested in social housing, over the last four years we have had a Fine Gael Labour coalition enforcing an austerity agenda pushing more and more people onto the housing waiting lists and rendering many families homeless and helpless. Ironically, rather than invest in housing this government have instead preferred to spend millions of tax payer’s money housing people in unsuitable accommodation including expensive hotel rooms. As a result the situation has become a national emergency. According to Sir Stanislaus Speaking on RTE radio last week, Focus Ireland warned this government as far back as 2012 that the crisis was rapidly deepening, but it is clear the government paid little attention to the warning.”

Councillor Brady pointed out some harsh consequences as a result of government inaction:
“The numbers of people who are now affected by homelessness is not just a national emergency, it is a national disgrace. The numbers represent real people and we should be careful that we do not allow the statistics to render us unfeeling. Parents are distraught, children are suffering and an entire cohort of our population are crushed under the weight of despair and self-loathing. There needs to be an immediate freeze on rents and an increase in rent supplement if we are to stop the numbers rising further.”

Councillor Brady pointed out that back in 2014 Sinn Fein published a plan that would have kicked started a serious attempt to deal with the issue:
“At that time we asked for an immediate injection of one billion euro to be made available to address the issue. Instead the government in the subsequent budget decided to reduce the tax burden on the wealthiest by half a million Euro. Sinn Fein also believes that Local authorities should be given the tools whereby they can raise the finances necessary to provide adequate social housing in their respective areas. Moreover, the number of houses made available as social housing units by private developers should be increased. The government should immediately release funding as a matter of urgency, they managed to find a way to waste almost one Billion Euro on Irish Water but they cannot seem to find the cash to provide homes for its citizens. As Sr Stanislaus has pointed out ‘Government policies are causing people to be homeless’. It is way past time that government listened to appeals from organisations who have worked tirelessly for decades helping homeless people in this country such as Focus Ireland. Despite the upcoming election, it is not too late to start listening now.”

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Wicklow Councillors are being blackmailed by the Government not to cut the Local Property Tax by 15%

Wicklow Sinn Féin County Councillor and General Election candidate John Brady has labelled the Local Property Tax as undemocratic and a Government tool being used to further starve local authorities of critical core funding which is needed to carry out essential functions. Wicklow County Council is to meet on Monday 28th September to set the Local Property Tax Rate for 2016. Under the legislation Local Authorities may vary the basic rate of the Local Property Tax within its own area by a maximum of 15%.

Speaking ahead of the council meeting Councillor Brady said “Wicklow County Council will meet on Monday 28th September to set the Property Tax rate for 2016. However figures that have been produced show that the level of funding available to the council will be substantially down on previous years and that the General Purpose Grant from the government of €6.8m is far too low and is not sufficient to cover the council’s core services. As a result council officials are being left having to rely on the 15% discretionary funding in the LPT to try fund core services”.

Cllr Brady continued “In the coming year the council will need and extra €1.6m just to maintain its current level of services. Already officials are asking councillors not to reduce the LPT by the 15% as it’s needed to maintain services. Sinn Féin have opposed the Property Tax from the outset, we have said that if we receive a mandate after the next election to form a new government we will abolish the unfair tax. Under the legislation Local Authorities may vary the basic rate of the Local Property Tax within its own area by a maximum of 15%. This means that Wicklow County Council can either increase or decrease the rate of the Local Property Tax in Co Wicklow in 2016 by 15% of the 2014 rate. Prior to the local elections Wicklow Sinn Féin committed to reducing the tax by the full 15% allowed”.

Councillor Brady further explains where the funding problem is “The main problem is the gross under funding of Wicklow County Council by the Government. Wicklow only receives €6.8m government funding from the General Purpose Grant. This is in contrast to the €17.5m received by Mayo in 2015 or the €22.7m Donegal got, not only are we the poor relations here, we also have to hand over 20% of all Property Tax money collected in Wicklow to an equalisation fund to help other counties. At a council meeting this week I proposed that the 5 Wicklow TDs be contacted and asked to attend a meeting with the councillors to discuss the under funding of the council and to make the case for Wicklow at a national level, for additional government funding from the General Purpose Grant. The populations of Wicklow and Mayo are similar, however there’s a massive difference is government funding levels. We have 3 Government TDs in Wicklow, why are they so silent on the under funding of Wicklow? And why aren’t they making a business case for Wicklow to have the grant increased?”

Brady was critical of the lack of consultation with the public in setting the rate for 2016; he called the process totally undemocratic “The Property Tax legislation provides for public consultation in setting the annual rate for the LPT. Unfortunately the council merely carried out a box ticking exercise by sticking an ad in the back of one of the local papers at the height of the summer holidays. Unsurprisingly the council only received two submissions, 1 in favour of cutting the rate by 15% and 1 looking to retain it without any reductions. Public representatives weren’t even informed that the consultation process was being held. I believe the failure to carry out a meaningful consultation process is fundamentally undemocratic, carried out by senior council officials who don’t want the public demanding the full 15% reduction”.

The Sinn Féin Councillor concluded “The people of Wicklow and across the state have been sold a pup with the Property Tax; they were promised properly funded local authorities with beautiful parks, playgrounds and many, many other greatly enhanced services due to the additional taxes going to fund them. Unfortunately what we have here in Wicklow is a council struggling to balance its books, and a council that is trying to force the hand of its councillors into not reducing the LPT by 15% because it needs it to pay for core services. I for one will not be blackmailed; I gave a commitment to the electorate to cut the LPT by the full 15%. If there is a cut to core services it’s because of the governments under funding of Wicklow County Council and not a decision to cut discretionary funding in an attempt to put some money back into the pockets of hard hit families that have been squeezed by Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil over the last 8 years”.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Outrage as Bus Eireann plans to cut bus stops at Barndarrig, Jack Whites and the Beehive

Wicklow Sinn Féin General Election candidate John Brady and Arklow District Councillor Mary McDonald have expressed serious concerns about the future of the Bus Eireann service that stops at Lil Doyles, the Beehive and Jack Whites. These stops were discontinued in December 2012 after Bus Eireann revised its timetable, however after a campaign by locals the stops were reinstated in 2013. Service users have now been informed again that from 27 September the stops will only be served by one stop in each direction every day.

Speaking on the impact to the local communities Councillor Brady said “I have been contacted by many service users from the Barndarrig, Brittas Bay area’s who are incensed that their public transport is again facing the chop. Rural public services have been decimated over the last few years and locals have had to fight hard to retain the vital Bus Eireann service they have. Bus Eireann has again dealt a blow to the communities around Lil Doyles, the Beehive and Jack Whites that rely on the service to get to Arklow, Wexford or into Dublin by moving to cut their service”.

Sinn Féin Arklow District Councillor Mary McDonald said “There is real anger again in the community by the fact that no public consultation has taken place. Bus Eireann is aware of the anger that was generated in 2012 when they first attempted to remove the service. Public pressure forced them into a u turn then and the anger that exists now must be channeled into a focused campaign to retain the service”.

Cllr Brady concluded “Having one pick up in the morning at these stops and one drop off in the evening services no purpose. This will impact detrimentally on the many people who rely on this critical service. It’s simply not feasible or practical for the communities that live in these areas to have to make their way into Arklow or Wicklow Town to be able to access public transport. Sinn Féin have contacted Bus Eireann and demanded that these stops would be retained, we have also organised a petition for the community to sign and let their views be know”

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Vacant Premises Incentive Scheme and other measures to be introduced by Bray Municipal District to help the retail industry

Wicklow Sinn Féin County Councillor John Brady has welcomed plans that have been developed by Bray Municipal District to help lift the retail industry in Bray and Enniskerry. The plan will see a number of measures being put in place to try helping increase footfall and attract new retailers to set up in Bray and Enniskerry.

Speaking after the council meeting Councillor Brady said “I’m delighted that a number of proactive measures have been agreed and are to be progressed to try help Bray re-establish itself as a major retail town. Bray is currently at a crossroads; unfortunately we have lost a large number of retailers in the recent past including Smyth’s. We have however attracted other retailers to establish in Bray and this has to be welcomed. What we need is a good mix of retail which will attract a higher footfall in the town which will help the many struggling retailers. The council is introducing a number of measures to try helping the retail industry, a Town Team will be set up, this will consist of key stakeholders and they will be tasked at making sure the town centre of Bray reaches its full potential”.

Brady went onto say a substantial fund has been set aside to implement a number of key measures “There is a fund in place of €100,000, there will be a number of key measures put in place. One of the main measures will be a Vacant Premises Incentive Scheme. This is being devised to try attract new retail into the District, it will offer a Grant payable to the equivalent of 50% of the Rates paid for the first year and a reduction of 25% in year two, key will be getting landlords to buy in the scheme and in tandem reduce the rents over the two year period. It’s important however to get a good mix of retail in this scheme and that it doesn’t impact on the existing retailers”.

“There will be a pilot scheme offering free parking in the towns two main car parks on Saturday’s, a public awareness campaign will be needed to promote this. At the meeting I raised the issue of traffic within the town and the need for the serious congestion that people experience getting into and out of the town to be addressed, the sequencing of the towns traffic lights needs to be looked at to ensure traffic runs smoothly and it doesn’t take 30 minutes to get from one end of the town to the other”.

Following a request from Councillor Bray an update on the Florentine Centre was also given at the meeting “I raised the status of the Florentine Centre and how that held the key to Bray’s upturn, it’s no secret that the 20 year saga has added to the town’s demise. The council purchased the 1.58 acre site in 2013 for €1.95m and have been progressing plans for its development. It’s hoped that a planning application for the site will be lodged prior to Christmas and it will consist of substantial retail space and a cinema. We need to get a major anchor tenant in the centre, it will also have a number of smaller retail space. This purpose built retail space in tandem with a badly needed cinema will bring the badly needed footfall into the town which in turn will entice further retail” explained Cllr Brady.

Cllr Brady concluded “Sitting back and doing nothing is not an option, I welcome these measures, and other measures such as Christmas in Bray and the hanging baskets which will help set the conditions to kick-start the retail industry in the Bray District. Discussions with major retailers will also continue to try entice them into the town. These measures will need to be monitored closely to ensure they are working, if they prove to be successful it could prove to be a template for other towns such as Arklow and Wicklow Town. Further discussions are due to held with some of the key stakeholders in the coming weeks”.