Local Fine Gael Senator, Aisling Dolan, has spoken of the urgent the need for a bus route from Athlone to Ballinasloe along the old Dublin-Galway road.
“I established a campaign in 2021 encouraging individuals to make submission on bus connections we would like to see at a local level under the Connecting Ireland Rural Mobility Plan.
“We now need to see a regular bus service connecting communities from Athlone to Ballinasloe. The bus station in Athlone town-centre formerly brought individuals through Summerhill and Moore into Ballinasloe and stopped outside the door of Portiuncula University Hospital.
“Portiuncula University Hospital is the healthcare focal point for over 20,000 people in Athlone and the major maternity hospital in the region, while students in large numbers travel to the new TÚS university in the town on a daily basis. In that regard, there is a demand from groups for this service and it is listed under Route 23 in the Connecting Ireland strategy. Right now there is no service on this route. Commercial providers do bring people from town to town along the motorway, but we need Local Link to connect communities and bring them from town centre to town centre.
“Another proposed route is from Athlone to Roscommon town via Ballyforan, Ballygar and Athleague and again would offer much choice to individuals who may not be able to drive or have access to a car.
“I requested the Minister and Department to provide an update and call to consider putting the route in place as soon as possible. Minister Madigan responded on behalf of Minister Eamon Ryan. The response indicates that there is an increase of 25% in rural bus services and that routes are still under review.
“However, we need to see this happen sooner than 2024, I can see that there is demand for this route. The Minister also noted that the National Transport Authority do remain agile and flexible according to demand for routes,” Senator Dolan commented.
Tax Changes Positives
Meanwhile, income tax changes announced in Budget 2023 which came into effect from the start of the year have put more money back in the pockets of constituents helping them to better deal with the cost of living crisis, a local Fine Gael Senator has said.
“In September, Ministers Paschal Donohoe and Michael McGrath announced a personal income tax package worth more than €1.1 billion as part of Budget 2023.
“The aim of the package is to ensure people take home more of their hard-earned cash, that they pay the higher tax rate of tax at a later point and that those who are benefitting from the changes to the minimum wage are not negatively impacted by additional USC.
“The key features of the changes will see the main personal tax credits (Personal, Employee and Earned Income ) increase by €75 from €1,700 to €1,775 and the standard rate cut-off point being increased by €3,200, going from €36,800 to €40,000 for single people and from €45,800 to €49,000 for married couples/civil partners with one earner.
“This means more people from our local communities will take home more of the money they earn and that more households are further protected from the rising cost of living and impact of inflation.
“An increase in the Home Carer Tax Credit of €100 has also come into effect, bringing it from €1,600 to €1700. This offers a greater level of support to parents who are caring for a child or dependent person at home. An increase of €1,625 to the 2% USC rate band ceiling will also ensure that a full-time worker on the minimum wage, who benefits from the increase in the hourly rate from €10.50 to €11.30, will remain outside the highest rates of USC.
“These changes are being made at a time when people are trying desperately to manage tighter household budgets and reduce their outgoings in a bid to make ends meet as the war in Ukraine continues to impact the cost of goods and services at home.
“Fine Gael in Government will continue to make adjustments to income tax, where possible, to ensure work pays and that people are incentivised to take up a job, go for a promotion or return to the labour market. People will see a difference in their next pay packet on the back of the changes made, giving them an extra few euro in their pockets to help them in 2023,” Senator Dolan concluded.