160 household charge payments were taken in by Offaly County Council on the March 31 deadline day for payment of the household tax as concerns now grow that Offaly will face punishment in the form of cuts to services when the full picture comes to light.
While the full extend of the numbers who have paid the charge to date is not yet fully collated, it’s estimated that over 2,000 payments were made to the Council and it is not yet known what the implications of this will be for the local authority.
Amidst these fears, Laois/Offaly TD, Barry Cowen believes that Offaly County Council is going to “take the rap for the Government’s failure on household charge fiasco” and will be punished in the form of cuts to services over non-payment of the household charge.
Deputy Cowen has asked Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan, TD to clarify if he plans to cut local services in Offaly if the Government hasn’t succeeded in collecting the household charge from all homes in the constituency.
Fine Gael TD, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy advocated that the “fairest means” of allocating funds raised by the payment of the household tax will be determined by her party colleague.
She commented, “The Government is acutely aware of the hardship being experienced by the Irish people at this time and are thankful to the people who have registered and paid the charge so far in spite of their personal financial difficulties.
“The Environment Minister said over the weekend mechanisms that will incentivise local authorities to collect outstanding payments will be carefully examined. During this process the he will look at the fairest way of allocating funds, take account of the financial circumstances, the population in each area and the services provided by each local authority.
“The full extent of the numbers who have paid the charge to date will not be known for some times as postal payments that were made before the deadline filter in. When the full picture is known and all of the data has been collated, the Minister will address the situation.”
Elsewhere, Sinn Fein has chosen the legislative route in a bid to abolish the tax by launching a bill to repeal the household charge. The bill, entitled Local Government [Household Charge] [Repeal] Bill 2012, aims to repeal the charge and allow the Department to reimburse those households that have already paid it.
The party will table the bill during Private Members’ time in June and intend to run a “positive, proactive ‘Back the Bill’ campaign in the coming months”. According to Laois/Offaly TD, Brian Stanley, who is the party’s spokesperson on Environment, Community and Local Government, the party will be using the next few months to lobby and encourage TDs from all parties, including Government parties, to vote for its bill in June.
“For local authorities to function, they require funding to provide services to the public. Hogan’s household charge will only drive a wedge between the local authorities and the communities they aim to serve. The Local Government Fund should be returned to 2011 levels.”
Independent councillor, Sean O’Brien believed that it is a unique opportunity for people to stand firm and let the Government know that they are not afraid of them as he urged people not to register and not to pay the charge by its deadline last weekend.
“It is not the people who should fear the Government but the Government should fear the people for a change,” he said.
The Independent councillor pointed out the huge anger out there concerning this charge as thousands of people converged on the Fine Gael Ard Fheis in Dublin to show their disgust at the charge over the weekend.