In the fourth installment of our interviews with Tipperary County Council election candidates, Tipperary Times speaks to Shane Lee of Labour
Can you outline the main points in your manifesto?
- Improve housing and tackle the housing list
- Improve local economy through working with local businesses and employers
- Improve funding for local communities and build stronger local communities
- Tackle local anti social behaviour
- More investment and services for youth projects
- Direct investment into local sports facilities
What will you do to aid job creation and tourism in Tipperary?
Unemployment is a huge issue in Tipperary at the moment, just to highlight the level of unemployment; there are currently 1288 people on the live register alone in Roscrea. This level of unemployment needs to be addressed.
The first thing we need to address is support for local businesses who are currently operating and employing people in our communities. We need to build business communities in our towns and villages across Tipperary to ensure that business work together and strengthen their operations.
While other candidates are promising rate reform, an issue for more than 3o years that no local councillor can actually deal with, or that they will lower businesses rates, which is hard to actually comprehend when you ask the question, where will the council get the lost revenue? This is an unrealistic approach and one that is more or less lying to the electorate. The reality is we need to bring businesses closer together, I believe there is a need for small business groups to expand and for the council to work with them, also, in areas they do not exist, we need to help establish small business groups. With these groups we can tackle more realistic expenses, such as group insurance schemes. Insurance makes up about 15 to 20% of business expenses and is something that we can work on cost saving with, group insurance schemes can save up to 15% on yearly costs for businesses which is a great start to lower overall yearly costs.
These groups may also work, with council support, on other group schemes, such as lowering the business operators cost through fuel group schemes, which when delivered through another local business, such as a fuel card with a locally operated Petrol Station, can also bring more business to a local employer while saving up to 10% annually on fuel costs.
These schemes can and do work elsewhere, while building strong business communities who will support each other and will gain more support from the local council due to the strength in numbers approach.
On creating employment, the first thing we need to work on is improving our local infrastructure. I am not only suggesting better roads and traffic flow schemes, I believe we need to improve the broadband access and speeds across the county in order to move toward the IT industry, a fast growing industry and one in which our country has seen huge benefits. While doings o, we also need to make much stronger representations to the IDA and show them what Tipperary can offer and ensure the IDA works with the council to bring more multinational business to our area.
There is huge opportunity in Tipperary due to the merger of councils, which also brings challenges, but I believe we have a chance to change the approach to developing business and work more closely with existing business.
Tourism is a huge industry in Ireland and Tipperary needs to do more to improve our tourism sector. We need investment into advertising and marketing our county more effectively, the council needs to start working closely with hotels, B&B’s and guest houses and the OPW, we need a more strategic approach and less of a case by case basis approach.
While travelling around our county you will see alot of derelict medieval and historic buildings, the council needs to start working on lobbying for restoration projects and advertising the opportunity that exists, this will also improve local employment outside of the tourism industry through construction and renovation.
Why do you want to be a public representative?
I believe our area needs louder voices and strong representation, I also, strongly believe, our area needs younger blood with new ideas. I am young, hard working and honest and I am easy to approach, our local people need more access to their councillors and someone who wont lie to them or make false promises. I am that person. I have worked very hard with our local community groups and local people to ensure that they are heard and I want to make sure the people are heard at council level.
The council is changing, the merger will bring new opportunities and we need a change in representation. I am hoping to be elected on the 23rd May to be that change, to bring a fresh approach and new ideas.
Can you explain the role of a County Councillor, as you believe it to be?
This question is vitally important to the electorate. The absolute least role a county councillor has is to be available to the people, to listen to their needs and to represent their locality and people.
What the electorate is being told by some candidates is that a councillor can effect water rates, change property tax and reform council rates, this simply is not possible for a county councillor and is lying, the job of a county councillor is to work with local communities to ensure they are getting the services required, to lobby the council for investment into local infrastructure, to work hard for the people to get investment into their locality, to provide proper housing, to work with other councillors on the council budget, to provide better facilities and amenities locally and to work with the local TD’s to ensure that the people are heard and their issues are brought to the Dail.
I have read and heard others talking about issues that are meant for a general election and that is simply unfair on local people, that has been an issue in my hometown, Roscrea. We have candidates at every local election who actually forget that its local issues we must deal with and attempt to be populous and force people to discuss and consider National Issues at local level, this is why we need a new approach to the county council, we need candidates who will work on the local issues that they can actually tackle and I want to work hard for the people to ensure that these issues are dealt with in a transparent and honest way.
What is your stance on the local property tax?
I was never in favour of the local property tax, but it is a tax that is there and I cannot change that. What I will say is that I personally believe it is wrong that the council, which was promised that the income from the property tax was at their disposal, no longer has access to expend the income. I believe that the income from the property tax would be put to good use by the council in dealing with local issues, by allocating more finance to local communities and residential groups so they can tackle the issues in their locality, by allocating more finance to improving infrastructure, to improve local health services and to invest in tourism. I am totally against Minister Hogans decision to take the local property tax income away from local councils and I have made representations to him on this issue, I am still awaiting a response.
What promises in your manifesto do you feel are attainable? Do you feel if you don’t deliver on your promises that you should seek to be elected again?
I believe I can continue to work toward tackling the housing list, which is at all time high levels, through a fresh, hard working approach, I was recently able to attain National funding for the 12 houses at Ros Na Cronin, amounting €1.1 Million, delivering 12 new homes for families in our area. We need to fight hard for national funding and create a new approach to housing in Tipperary and I feel that is something I will be able to do if elected.
I strongly believe the growing anti social behaviour issue can be tackled at local level, through work with local community groups and residential groups we can roll out the text alert service that I have been pushing in Roscrea, we can also create local Community Task Forces to deal with drug issues and support the Gardai resources that are available, anti social behaviour happens in our locality and I feel the people who live among it are best positioned to tackle it, working with local people we can begin to turn the tide, so to speak, and make real change on this issue.
I believe the council needs to look at the facilities available for sports and community groups and needs to start investing in improvements and supporting applications and proposals to build, create and develop better, more sustainable and better class, sports facilities. Sports are ideal for tackling some mental health issues, general health issues, bringing communities together, tourism and much more, we need to see a real change toward supporting sports in our locality and I believe I can deliver that.
As stated above I believe that building business communities will help improve the local economy, we are always stronger in a united group, I believe I can deliver this and have already been delivering results in this area.
Do you believe local issues should be dealt with by Councillors rather than by TD’s?
Local development issues need to be dealt with by councillors, improving planning policy, improving local infrastructure, but most of all investing and improving local communities. Local Councillors, in Tipperary, spend all of their time on the ground locally and can see and live directly within the communities every day and are more aware of community and residential issues. I would not expect a TD, who is in the Dail several days per week to be able to have the complete knowledge of the local communities issues and therefore I believe our councillors must work harder and harder within communities.
What will you do to ensure that the Local Property tax collected is ring-fenced for projects in Tipperary and not used to serve national debt?
As stated in a previous answer this is an issue I feel strongly on. I will lobby our local TD’s to ensure there is an understanding that these property taxes would be better utilised in local funding. I would also ask the council to make strong representations tot the Dail to ensure this income is ring fenced locally. I intend to fight for this and will work tirelessly to ensure the council can use this means of income to invest locally. While I cannot promise that we will be able to ring fence this income, I can promise that I will fight tooth and nail for it.
What do you think of the Gateway scheme that Tipperary county council have implemented?
The theory of the Gateway scheme is something that can be considered but in its current form, I am not happy with it.
The scheme is intended to assist the personal and social development of participants by providing short-term work opportunities with the objective of bridging the gap between unemployment and re-entering the workforce but that is dependent on the type of work that the individual is placed in.I am totally in favour of jobs which include; Village Enhancement Schemes, Tourism Ambassadors and New projects – Brown Field Site Remediation, but question whether these jobs are being issued.
One point that is to be made on this is the misinformation that is being given. The gateway scheme has a minimum payment of €208 for 19.5 hours worked, which works out at over €10 per hour. Some candidates are arguing that it is just €20 per week on top of social welfare; this is only the case when your social welfare income is at €188 per week, which is not always the case. I do not believe that 10 per hour is a poor wage but I do contest the jobs that are being allocated.
Do you think the amalgamation of both county councils will save money and still maintain services
I am not entirely sure it will but that is why we need hard working and honest councillors to ensure that the new council does its job effectively. I believe we need to fight to ensure services are maintained and improved upon, while other services will require a fresh approach in a new amalgamated council.
It’s hard to imagine a new council will be effective without sufficient investment to start with but I will work hard, if elected, to ensure our communities do not suffer.
How do you think the Tipperary Mayor should be selected?
I believe an annual election should take place with a simple nomination and seconding for candidates done within the councillors and a ballot to select the Mayor. No individual should serve two consecutive terms and each candidate should have a formal manifesto. I also believe there should be transparency with nominators published and each candidates manifesto published also.
How do you think that your area should be funded in order to provide services?
This is a very hard question for anyone to answer, I feel that funding from local sources need to be invested locally but I also feel direct funding from national government is required. I feel the health service locally needs to be upgraded and council investment will not be sufficient, I also feel mental health services need a drastic improvement and again, local funding will not be sufficient.
What do you think of Dublin City Councils proposal to abstract water from Lough Derg and what can you do about it?
The council needs to do a thorough analysis of this, there may be funding and income but at what cost? The Lough Derg area is a tourism area and needs to be kept as such, we have good employment there, until I see a proper and full analysis of this I cannot agree to any abstraction of water from Lough Derg.
What is your opinion on the abolition of town councils?
As a Roscrea native I believe our town is more prepared for the abolition but do understand the difficulties for other towns that have had town councils. In one respect I do disagree with the abolishment, as local groups benefitted immensely from the town council but on the other hand, I felt that many towns, who did not have town councils, suffered due to a lack of direct investment and direct contact. I recently read that it was a move from democracy, but I do feel the need to ask, democracy for whom? the towns that did not have Town Councils? Roscrea has more than 5,000 residents, why were they not entitled to a town council and the direct benefit?
For towns without a town council it is a move toward a level playing field, for those who had them it is a loss. For any native of Roscrea, who has fought for a town council for years, this is more of a welcome move and I believe it would be very hard to swallow someone from this town saying otherwise.
What experience do you have that would benefit the people of Tipperary?
I grew up in a strong community and know how, as a community, we can work together and deliver change and improvements. I know the issues and did not need to knock on doors to find them; I have been living among them and believe I can make a huge change to the issues we all face locally.
I am a self employed business man and know what it is like to run a business in our area, the pitfalls and issues and how to survive.
I have been involved in sports my whole life and have ran sporting clubs and been involved with sports at both playing and administrating and know how to keep our sports clubs developing.
I am young, hard working, honest and new, I believe my new ideas and hard work ethic is what the council needs and I hope to deliver that.
Have you been involved in politics before? If so, to what extent?
I have been dealing with local councillors for several years and have worked with council projects and fought for council funding for several years. I have been involved in getting speed ramps, security barriers for laneways and many other local issues where I have dealt direct with both the council and local councillors.
I am new to the political scene but have been working hard within a political background for some time and feel I have the correct experience and knowledge to make a change and a change is what people need.
Why do you want to be a Councillor?
I want to be a voice for the people on the ground in our area. For too long we have had candidates who don’t understand the issues, who don’t know our towns, estates, communities or are lifetime politicians. I want to be a councillor for the people and to represent the people and their fight for them, for us. I want to make a change and a difference and I will fight for people and work hard and earn every single vote I get.
Now is the time for change, we are all tired of what has been happened both locally and nationally, we have seen it these past few weeks with political attack after attack, with party statements every day and worse. Now we need to work hard and deliver and be honest, I will never promise what cant be achieved and I won’t disappear if elected. I am standing for the people of our area and that is why I want to be a councillor.