Abolition of councils on agenda for Cabinet
PROPOSALS to abolish a number of town councils and reform freedom of information legislation are among the issues to be brought to Cabinet tomorrow, the last meeting before the summer break.
About 25 councils out of 80 are at risk of abolition because of their limited range of functions. Town councillors receive an annual payment of €16,700 and any cuts will also have an impact on council staff.
Local government reform proposals by Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan are on the list for Cabinet, but senior Government sources have described it as a “long agenda” for the last meeting until September.
Speculation is increasing that the Cabinet will give responsibility for collecting the new property tax to the Revenue Commissioners.
Meanwhile, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has asked an advisory group to examine the possibility of taxing child benefit for those earning more than €100,000, but Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin described the move as “gesture politics”.
Mr Martin said in an RTÉ radio interview nobody would quibble with taxing high earners, but he did not believe it would have a significant overall effect on the budgetary situation.
The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin, is expected to bring proposals to Cabinet for extending freedom of information legislation.
It is unclear as of yet whether a long-awaited report on allowances paid to staff in the public service will also be discussed today. Mr Howlin has asked all Government departments to draw up a business case for each of the 800 separate allowances currently being paid. The cost of allowances is around €1.5 billion annually.
The review was originally set to be completed last spring; however the deadline has continually been pushed back.
Any move to significantly cut back on allowances could generate the most serious industrial relations problems in the public service since the signing of the Croke Park agreement two years ago. Teaching unions at their annual conferences earlier this year warned they would view any move to cut allowances as a breach of the Croke Park deal.