Drogheda on the Boyne.
The consequences of Phil Hogan’s so-called reform of local Government in 2014 continue to reverberate in the streets of Drogheda which was severely affected by the sweeping changes that were imposed.
The effects of being governed by a local authority that is based in Dundalk are being felt on a daily basis in Drogheda, the most populous town in the county, which many people consider to be largely overlooked by top Management at Louth County Council (LCC)
Of course, one of the biggest gripes is that Drogheda was left with no town manager, no go-to person with an office in the town who could sort things out when problems arise.
The situation is exacerbated by the fact that the balance of power in terms of the numbers of Councillors is weighted in favour of the North of the county.
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Between the Drogheda Urban and Rural electoral areas there are ten councilors while Dundalk/Carlingford Electoral Area and Dundalk South Electoral Area have 13 between them. The Ardee Electoral Area has six.
Our nearest and most populous district, and the one with which we have more interaction, is of course Mornington, Laytown and Bettystown, but Big Phil Hogan didn't see the sense in combining these with Drogheda so it still comes under the aegis of Meath County Council in Navan.
One of the current bugbears being felt in Drogheda is that of a disparity in commercial rates being demanded from local businesses.
LCC is seeking to impose a higher Annual Rateable Valuation (ARV) on all rateable properties in the Drogheda area.
The ARV is a mechanism by which the level of commercial rates payable by businesses is calculated and the upshot of this proposal from LCC is that Drogheda businesses will be asked to pay 3.5% more in rates than their counterparts in Dundalk and 17.4% more than those in Louth Rural.
Under the old system Drogheda Borough District Council, Dundalk Urban District Council, and Louth County Council (rural areas) set their own budgets and the ARV that applied to their respective Ratepayers.
“This system, while not perfect, worked as there was some transparency, and more importantly, the revenue raised was spent in the respective council areas” one Drogheda ratepayer explained to Drogheda Life.
“We now have a situation that all revenue is lumped into a central fund to be disbursed as the Council sees fit. This is with little oversight to determine if this money is being spent fairly throughout the County.
“There is a general feeling in south Louth that our Council and various State agencies have not treated south Louth fairly at all in the past and this ARV if implemented will contribute to this mindset.”
Another business owner pointed out that to the best of his knowledge, all other Local Authorities in the country have adopted a single ARV, including Tipperary which previously had two County Councils and seven town councils!
“If adopted, south Louth will be the most expensive part of the County for any business to trade or set up in” he said. “This has very obvious adverse implications for the Foreign Direct Investment that the LOVEDROGHEDA BID, The Chamber of Commerce and the City Status Group are all fighting very hard to achieve.
Niall KIerans of the LOVEDROGHEDA BID said they have written to County CEO Joan Martin and are awaiting her response.
“We have also written to all the Councillors in the Drogheda area and stated our case with them. We are acutely conscious of the fact that our own Councillors will, as always, be voted down by northern Councillors who will not support a resolution that, while fairer, leaves their ratepayers paying higher rates.
“Finally, it should be stressed that this is not an attempt by Drogheda Ratepayers to shirk their responsibilities as, let’s face it, a significant majority of local ratepayers volunteered to increase their contribution to their community by voting in the Lovedrogheda BID.
“This is an insistence by Drogheda businesses on equity and transparency, we are not happy to tolerate impartial taxes or management of our Town.