Hogan says no instructions to local councils to withhold third-level grants

Wed, Sep 19, 2012, 01:00

NO INSTRUCTIONS had been given to local authorities to withhold third-level grants from those refusing to pay the household charge, Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan told the Dáil.

He understood that no money had been withheld at this stage by Clare County Council relating to grants. The council asked for a lot of information from applicants.

“Clare County Council is doing the same...as instructed by me to all local authorities to ensure that we get a higher compliance of the household charge,” he said.

“Otherwise they will be faced with the consequences of not having the same amount of money in their budget as they had in the earlier part of the year and will have to cut it.”

Mr Hogan said it was a matter for local authority management and members to decide to stay within their budgets.

“That is what you would expect any good and prudent management of a council to do.”

Pressed on the issue by Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen and Sinn Féin’s Brian Stanley, the Minister said he had instructed all local authorities to collect money that was outstanding. The local government management agency would be in constant contact with the data protection systems, with the necessary compliance requirements and protocols in place.

“I do not micro-manage local authorities,” said Mr Hogan.

Independent TD Shane Ross later challenged Taoiseach Enda Kenny to go back to the troika which was demanding the property tax.

The troika, he said, should be told of the IMF report which said that growth rates in this country would be down nearly by half the projections for this year. The growth rate for next year would also be down.

“What they are saying is that we cannot afford to pay based on the assumptions on that particular bailout.”

Middle Ireland could not pay those taxes, Mr Ross added.

Mr Kenny said a property tax would be introduced, with the Revenue Commissioners designing the mechanics of how it would apply.

He said the tax would apply from July 1st next year, and Minister for Finance Michael Noonan had ruled out implementing it in the way suggested by the IMF.

“Anything outside of that is entirely speculative,” Mr Kenny said.

Mr Kenny recalled that when he had joined a county council many years ago people paid for water, refuse as well as their rates.

He said commercial ratepayers had been completely squeezed, and it had come to a point where many of them had not been able to draw anything from their business for quite some time.