Government accused of chasing taxpayers 'to graveyard' for charge

 

DEATH WILL not spare taxpayers from the household charge, Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan has told the Dáil as he introduced legislation to implement the €100 fee from January.

And people who pay the charge in cash to their local authority will be penalised with a €10 transaction charge, which public accounts chairman John McGuinness described as “absolutely ridiculous”, when any business in the State would be happy to see customers paying their bill.

Homeowners who fail to pay will be pursued and in the case of death the charge, interest and penalties will be applied to their estate, including fines of up to €2,500.

Opening the debate on the Local Government (Household Charge) Bill, Mr Hogan said: “I want the message to go out clearly to those who are liable to pay this necessary household charge on time, rather than incur late payments fees and penalties.”

Sinn Féin environment spokesman Brian Stanley told the Minister it was “absolutely outrageous that you’re chasing people to the graveyard” for the charge.

The Minister said the €10 charge was because cash transactions were “resource heavy” for local authorities.

Mr McGuinness said: “If you walk into any enterprise up and down this country they’d be happy to see you for cash, for paying the bill. But the local authority – top-heavy inefficient and detailed in the McCarthy report for reform – is now being allowed to charge a further penalty on those who are trying to make ends meet.”

Fianna Fáil environment spokesman Niall Collins called for clarification about the income from the charge because the Minister said it would generate €160 million, while Minister for Finance Michael Noonan had repeatedly stated €100 million. His party would oppose the legislation unless it was amended because it did not provide enough exemptions for hard-pressed householders.

“The Government has cut local services by 84 per cent and is expecting taxpayers to make up the difference.” It’s a regressive household “poll” tax, he said.

Ability to pay is a huge issue for this charge, Independent Wexford TD Mick Wallace said. He pointed to the 14.5 per cent unemployment rate and said he was “a bit flabbergasted” by the complete change in Fine Gael’s attitude from when it was in opposition.

Catherine Murphy said this was being described as a household charge “but it is a tax” and was “fundamentally unfair”, taking no account of people’s ability to pay. The Kildare North TD said the quality of local services had diminished because of ongoing cuts in funding.