The budget in Ballinasloe: Little sign of return to pre-recession times

Retention of 9% tourism VAT rate welcomed as is €15m for national broadband plan

Manager of Ballinasloe’s local enterprise centre, Lyn Donnelly, who has called for more support for start-up businesses, said: “I’d be in favour of any supports for start-ups and helping existing businesses.” Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

Manager of Ballinasloe’s local enterprise centre, Lyn Donnelly, who has called for more support for start-up businesses, said: “I’d be in favour of any supports for start-ups and helping existing businesses.” Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

 

Budget 2017 has been met with mixed reaction in Ballinasloe in east Galway - a town showing little signs of a return to pre-recessionary times.

The town was rocked by the closure of landmark hotel Hayden’s on Dunlo Street in the town on Monday.

Hayden’s had been in existence in the town for decades and while had not enjoyed the massive trade of the past in more recent years, it was nevertheless seen as a key part of the town.

The retention of the 9 per cent VAT rate for tourism and hospitality in Budget 2017 has been welcomed locally, as was the €15 million towards progressing the national broadband plan.

Spending of more than €300 million on regional and local roads was also seen as positive, as many businesspeople in the town feel the motorway network is prompting people to do business in Athlone and Galway rather than in Ballinasloe.

Broadly welcomed

The extension of the Start Your Own Business scheme for another two years has been broadly welcomed in the town.

Manager of the local enterprise centre, Lyn Donnelly, who has called for more support for start-up businesses, said: “I’d be in favour of any supports for start-ups and helping existing businesses.”

She welcomed the broadband fund which will help to increase speeds and said this is a key factor in efforts to attract new businesses to the town.

“Broadband is needed. It is definitely a draw in securing new business,” she said.

The increase in tax credits for the self-employed, from €400 to €950, is a positive move in an effort to support sole traders, she said.

Local Sinn Féin Councillor Dermot Connolly said the Government did not go far enough with this measure.

“I wanted that brought to €1,300 but the Government didn’t seem to go the whole hog on that,” he said.

While he said the recruitment of 800 new gardaí next year is a positive move, efforts need to be made to reopen shut Garda stations - some of which were in rural areas near Ballinasloe. “When is that going to happen?” he asked.

He said towns like Ballinasloe that had suffered in the past 20 years due to factory closures did not appear to be getting a boost in this budget.

‘Being left behind’

“The tax take is massive in the area but it doesn’t seem to be coming back into the town. Societies like ours are being left behind,” he said.

One industry that has remained solid in Ballinasloe and surrounds over the years is agriculture. The local livestock mart holds sales three times a week, while Arrabawn Co-op in nearby Kilconnell is also another significant contributor to the hinterland.

Local businessman Gerry Stronge welcomed the low-cost loan fund for farmers, announced as part of the budget.

“That’s very important for us. Farmers need help. They are the backbone of the community and they held the community together during the recession. Farmers work long hours and that’s not rewarded,” he said.

‘Badly needed’

Mr Stronge said the investment in the local roads network is “badly needed”. “Nothing has been done with the old Galway to Dublin road, the N6,” he said.

However he said the Start Your Own Business scheme did not appear to have any impact on the ground.

He added that more efforts should be made to fill vacant houses in the town, rather than support first-time buyers purchasing new homes.

“There is nothing on relocation grants. What’s the point in helping first-time buyers to buy new houses when there are no new houses being built? There are vacant houses in Ballinasloe. We need to relocate people to places like Ballinasloe,” he added.