Concern over unpaid household tax
Householders in north Dublin are concerned they may face prosecution because they were "duped" into not paying the household charge, councillors heard today.
A meeting of Fingal County Council heard that about 59,000 homeowners in the local authority area have paid the charge – just over 65 per cent of the total number eligible to pay.
When the 2,200 registered waivers were taken into account, the collection percentage was closer to 68 per cent.
Councillor Darragh Butler (FF) said there were people who were now worried that they faced prosecution for not paying the charge, as had happened in other local authority areas recently.
He said people were getting bills for the charge and the arrears owed and they now realised they had been “duped” by various parties who had told them the household charge was “going to go away”.
“I wasn’t a big fan of this tax from the start. It is a tax. Whether we like it or not, we have to pay it. We can’t pick and choose our taxes,” he said.
He said there were people who had been “tricked” into believing they would not have to pay.
“Maybe there are certain politicians that want to end up in jail because they’d like the publicity out of it. But there are people now who are terrified of that happening to them.”
Mr Butler asked whether any leeway could be given to those who wanted to pay the charge but who could not currently pay it. He asked whether the council could guarantee that prosecutions would not be taken.
Outlining the figures for those who had paid, Des Bruton of the council’s finance department said there was an obligation on people to pay the charge.
Councillor Ruth Coppinger of the Socialist Party, who has led the Campaign Against the Household Charge, said she didn’t think anybody had ever said the charge would go away.
“In fact, what we said to people was that it will multiply into a property tax and that’s happening next year.”
Ms Coppinger said the suggested property tax might be of the order of a quarter or a half a per cent on the value of the average home. Based on a value of €160,000, this would be between €400 and €800.
“It could be lower than that, we don’t know. In relation to summonses, I hope that this council doesn’t decide to summons people to court because I think there’s a huge repulsion against this tax, the unfairness of it. It’s seen as bondholders’ tax and an austerity tax,” she said.
“The only people who’ve been summonsed at the moment is a bunch of landlords in Mayo, which is [Taoiseach] Enda Kenny’s home county – people who generally appear to own five, six and 12 houses in Westport. They wouldn’t be my focus.”
Ms Coppinger said that where people were concerned about demands to pay the charge, members could refer them to the anti-household charge helpline.
A row broke out in the chamber later in the meeting as Ms Coppinger spoke on a motion she had tabled calling on the Government to legislate for the X Case Supreme Court ruling. Labour councillor Tom Kelleher claimed he could not hear the proceedings due to a protest outside the window, which he claimed had been organised by Ms Coppinger.
Ms Coppinger said the protest had been organised by the Balbriggan campaign against the household charge.
Councillor Anthony Lavin (FG) proposed that the council might enter into an “informal arrangement” with people who wished to pay the charge, to allow them pay in instalments.
Mr Bruton told the members there was no possibility of such informal arrangements being entered into, as all household charge payments were processed by the Local Government Management Agency on behalf of the local authorities.
“We don’t get involved and can’t get involved in instalment arrangements in that respect,” he said.
Separately, councillors were presented with an outline of the capital programme for Fingal for 2013 to 2015. The council expects to spend in the region of €216 million on projects, primarily on infrastructure.