Household charge paid by 805,000 before deadline

 

Minister for Health Dr James Reilly has said he believes homeowners will eventually pay the household charge "one way or the other".

Speaking after the deadline for payment of the charge passed at midnight, Dr Reilly said he wanted to thank the 805,569 householders, about 50 per cent of those reportedly eligible, who paid the levy on time for doing so.

Included in the 805,569 households deemed to have paid are 12,677 properties registered for waivers and 89,000 postal applications which have yet to be processed.

The Local Government Management Agency said the charge has raised €62.1 million to date. The Government had expected the charge to generate some €160 million in total. Fines are likely to be levied on those who have failed to pay the charge.

“More than a half of our householders have paid this and the rest will follow,” Dr Reilly told RTE Radio’s This Week programme. “This tax is not going to go away…it’s on the house and it will be paid eventually one way or the other.

“I don’t believe that we will have to chase people down. I believe that as people realise it has to be paid it will be paid. The Government will meet on Tuesday to consider the situation with the latest up to the minute information.”

Dr Reilly was also critical of TDs and Senators who campaigned for non-payment of the charge, saying they were encouraging people to break the law.

Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins, who has opposed the charge, said that only 41 per cent had paid the levy when the household figures from census data published last week were taken into account.

In a statement, Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan said that those who paid the charge understood the need to pay for local services. "By paying the household charge, they have made their valuable contribution to the continuation of essential services at the local level. I thank them for this," he said.

"In spite of the opposition to the charge the majority of householder have the paid the charge and I am appealing to local authorities to be businesslike in collecting the outstanding charges and I'm examining the principle of better rewarding those LAs that pull out all the stops to collect the charge," he added.

A spokesman for Mr Hogan said the Minister was looking at the principle of incentivising local authorities to pull out all the stops to pay the charge. In general, money collected from such a charge would be held centrally and redistributed on a pro-rata basis. Mr Hogan is understood to be considering allowing local authorities to keep all the funds collected in their areas.

Gardai said that 5,000 people participated in a protest against the charge yesterday. The demonstration began at Parnell Square at 1pm and culminated in a rally near the Convention Centre, where Fine Gael was holding its annual ardfheis.

Protest organisers said afterwards that up to 10,000 people had participated. A Garda spokesman said the march passed off peacefully.

However, a man mistaken for Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan was surrounded, jostled and pushed to the floor by a small group participating in the rally. The man - who insisted "They've got the wrong guy. I'm not Phil Hogan" - was helped into a Garda car which was subsequently rocked by a small number of protestors before leaving the scene.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the protest was perfectly legitimate but he also pointed out that the household charge was now the law of the land. He said the new tax was about the provision of services in every town and village in the country.

The State’s 34 city and county councils face having to make significant cuts in local services if revenues fall short of the €160 million the charge was expected to generate.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan told parliamentary colleagues this week that the budgetary allocation for local government had been made – taking account of the €160 million revenue projected from the new tax – and no further funds would be made available.