Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Environment and Local Government Barry Cowen has raised concerns that 1,700 local authority tenants across Offaly face hefty hikes in rents next year as a result of the new property tax legislation.
He claimed that the Government has ignored the advice in the Thornhill report on property taxes and plans to hold all county councils liable for property taxes on the local authority houses in their area.
Deputy Cowen commented, “We cannot expect Offaly County Council, which has already faced large funding cuts this year because of the household charge fiasco, to absorb the cost of property taxes on each of the 1,700 local authority homes in this county. If the Government presses ahead with this, the council will have no choice but to push the cost directly onto tenants by increasing rents. But the rent on each local authority home is based on ability to pay so how can these families, who are already experiencing serious difficulties, be expected to afford sudden and significant rent increases?
“This is why Thornhill report on property tax recommended that local authority housing be exempt. The fact that the Government ignored this advice, after sitting on the report for 8 months, means that the gravity of this situation has not dawned on many people. There has been no consultation, no thorough impact assessment and no time for proper debate on this issue. I have spoken to many local authority members here over the past number of days who had no idea that this was coming down the line.
“Did the Environment Minister Phil Hogan make any effort to consult Offaly County Council and other local authorities about this? Was there any communication at all with our Councillors? Has his Department carried out an assessment of how much the overall bill will be for each council? Was there any proper examination at all about this, or was the Government just hoping no one would notice as they continue to suppress debate on the issue?
“Offaly County Council is finalising its estimates for next year this week. This property tax bombshell has come as a shock to many Councillors here. They have had no direction from the Government. Minister Hogan needs to come out and explain how he expects Offaly County Council, or the local authority tenants in this county, to pay this property tax.”