Domestic Post

O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being.
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing.

Those lines from Ode to the West Wind by Percy Bysshe Shelley came to my mind this morning not only because it’s blowing a gale outside but also because it is just after Halloween Samhain which was a noisy night because of all the fireworks, but at least I wasn’t disturbed by trick-or-treaters. I guess none of them made it past the barbed wire and electric fence…

Anyway, being confined to quarters for the day has allowed me to catch up on some domestic matters, including dealing with my first ever demand for payment of Local Property Tax (LPT) which arrived on Friday: before I bought my own home, my landlord paid the LPT on the flat I was living in. Coincidentally, along with the bill for the Local Property Tax came a letter from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) confirming that they had changed my address on their records. I told them two months ago.

The Local Property Tax plays a similar role in Ireland to that of the Council Tax in the United Kingdom, and is also based on some notional estimate of the value of your home, but it’s quite a lot lower than in the UK. Although my house in Maynooth is worth considerably more than my Pontcanna residence the property tax is less than a third here than it is in Cardiff. You might think that’s a good thing, but the consequence is that there is a much poorer provision of local services here. In fact Local Government as a whole is a much lesser thing here than it is on the other side of the Irish Sea. Although there are elections to the local councils (in my case Kildare County Council) as there are in the UK, the ability of the councils to do anything useful is very limited.

One particular aspect of this is that householders in Ireland have to arrange their own refuse collection via a private company; in Cardiff the refuse collection service was provided by the Council. When I took over the house I asked the previous owner about refuse collections and, since I had no experience of any of the companies listed as offering this service, I simply carried on with the company she had used.

And so it came to pass that my weekly refuse and recycling collection is carried out by Bord na Móna (literally “The Turf Board”), a company set up in 1946 to supply peat as a form of fuel. Although you can still buy peat around these parts to burn on the fire, it is a very dirty fuel and harvesting it causes damage to the peat bogs in the Irish Midlands that provide a unique habitat for wildlife and plants of various kinds. Bord na Móna has therefore been diversifying into more sustainable lines of business with the intention of withdrawing entirely from peat production in the next decade or so. Among these new activities are renewable energy generation and recycling, the latter being relevant to this post.

The refuse collection, carried out through a subsidiary called AES, is quite a sophisticated operation. I have four wheelie bins (one for recycling, one for organic & food waste, one for glass, and one for general waste). Each of these bins is microchipped and the amount of general waste collected recorded at each collection. I am of frugal habits and don’t usually produce very much waste, especially general waste, though I have had a number of things delivered to the house since I moved in which always requires disposal of a considerable amount of packaging. Happily they also send a free SMS reminder of what bin to put out when.

Anyway to return to the opening theme of this post, I’ve discovered a “feature” of my new house. Being situated at the end of a row of similar properties with a wall to one side to mark the end of the row, it seems that leaves which have been blown along the road collect in great heaps on the path leading to my front door. I have to go out quite regularly with a shovel to clear them away. At present I put them in the organic refuse bin, but I’m thinking of getting a compost bin for the garden. It seems I am becoming quite domesticated in my old age.

Postscript: no sooner did I finish this post than all the power went off in the house.

Postscript to the postscript. It came on again after about 2½ hours in my area, but as I write it is still off in parts of Maynooth.

2 Responses to “Domestic Post”

  1. John Peacock Says:

    Ironically, Edinburgh has the Council being responsible for refuse collection, but in practice they outsource it to a private company. So all this means in practice is that, when the service is dreadful (which it frequently is), your only means of redress is to complain to a powerless middleman. If a service is going to be privatised, I’d rather deal with the company concerned directly, so that I have the leverage of taking my business elsewhere. It’s a similar story with the roads, where the abundance of unmended potholes is a disgrace (and, to us cyclists, a potentially lethal one). Again this mending is outsourced, and this is part of the problem. But who fixes your roads? Surely residents of Irish streets don’t club together to achieve this? (although this is how communal roofs in blocks of flats function, so maybe it’s not a crazy idea).

    • telescoper Says:

      It was the same in Brighton, i.e. outsourced to a useless company, but in Cardiff it’s all done in-house as it were. Cardiff is also one of the few local authorities that runs its own bus services too.

      In Ireland the local roads are maintained by the local county council (Kildare in my case). They don’t seem interested in doing much for cyclists (or pedestrians) though.

      Interestingly there is a communal recreation area where I live and that is maintained by local residents. In other estates it is also done by the Council.

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