Rabbitte denies Cabinet ‘squabble’ over property tax

Fianna Fáil claims FG-Labour split over controversial measure

 Minister for Communication Pat Rabbitte: accused Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary of having a propensity towards ‘g ossip and speculation and mischief-making’. File Photograph; Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Minister for Communication Pat Rabbitte: accused Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary of having a propensity towards ‘g ossip and speculation and mischief-making’. File Photograph; Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Thu, Jul 3, 2014, 13:02

Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte has insisted there is no Cabinet “squabble’’ about the property tax.

The Labour Party Minister said Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan was required give guidelines to local authorities by September in terms of their remit.

“It is a matter for the councillors of the future how they want to operate the variability clause that has been built into the law,’’ he added.

The Minister was replying in the Dáil today, during Opposition leaders’ questions, to Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary, who asked for a Government guarantee that councils who wanted to reduce their property tax by 15 per cent would be in a position to do so.

He also sought an assurance that councils would not be penalised by the Government by a massive reduction in the central government grant if the property tax collections were higher than anticipated.

Mr Rabbitte said Mr Calleary’s difficulty was his propensity to believe “gossip and speculation and mischief-making’’.

There was no change, he said, in the arrangement whereby councils would keep 80 per cent of the property tax collected locally, with the remaining 20 per cent going into a solidarity fund to give to poorer councils.

Yesterday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny denied claims by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin in the Dáil that the Cabinet was split on the property tax.

He insisted there was no basis for the “division’’ among Ministers. He added that the tax was an alternative to increased income taxes and the details involved were still being worked out by the Government.

“The law says that the elected representatives of the people, whatever the shade of opinion on the council, are entitled to reduce the property charges by 15 per cent if they so wish,’’ he added. “It is a matter for themselves to make that decision.’’

Mr Martin said media reports had said there was a significant split in the Cabinet on the issue, with Fine Gael wanting to charge local authorities more. Services devolved from central government would have to be paid for, he added.