THERE are no figures available for compliance with the household charge in Westport, though the overall rate for the county stands at around 69 per cent. Those who have not paid the €100 household charge as of yet will find they are now liable for €126, and this will rise to €127 from next week. That was the message from Westport Town Council last week, where councillors debated the much-maligned tax.
The council executive continued to insist that the charge must be paid if local authority services are to remain unaffected, but the debate spilled into the political domain, and there was disagreement among councillors on the issue.
Fine Fáil councillor Margaret Adams said that Environment Minister Phil Hogan had made a ‘hames’ of the whole household charge initiative, and she asked why no bills had been sent out, even to those that had not yet made payment.
Cllr Martin Keane became untypically irate and demanded to know what people ‘who just cannot afford to pay it’ are supposed to do. He had a swipe at Mayo County Council’s senior management, demanding to know what the money would be spent on, before answering his own question by stating, ‘the manager and officials off to the States, that’s what.’
Cllr Myles Staunton took umbrage at this and rebuked Cllr Keane, calling his words a ‘cheap shot’, while Cathaoirleach Ollie Gannon said it was not right to go down the road of criticising people that were not present. Cllr Staunton went on to say that he believed areas of the county that had paid more should not be punished in the same way as those that had paid less.
Town Manager Martin Keating said that the council had begun contacting some households in relation to the charge, where their databases had showed an outstanding liability. He said the household charge is a self-declaration collection and there are no waivers for it, though he said some people would be exempt from paying it. He said there are criteria and rules governing the charge and the council have staff to deal with queries on it.
CUTBACKS to the Local Government fund for County Waterford are not as severe as previously feared, however Minister Phil Hogan is still refusing to release the third quarterly allowance of €507,000 and will reduce the amount available in the final quarter if more home owners don’t stump up payment for the household charge.
The news was greeted by some relief at last week’s meeting of Waterford County Council, which came two weeks after councillors abandoned their meeting at the start of the month such was their fury at the possibility of the council losing €2m in funding.
After seeking clarification from Minister Phil Hogan, management at the County Council learned that the adjustment made to the General Purpose Grant payment in Quarter 3 is confirmed and will not be reviewed further. No reason has been provided for why this amount of money is being withheld.
Waterford County Manager Denis McCarthy said that this meant that the €507,000 due to them for the third quarter would not be handed over. In respect of the final quarter payment, Waterford County Council is still at risk of losing another €90,000.
The monies, which are to be paid in November, will not be affected if over 65% of people comply with the household charge. For county and city councils with compliance rates of between 60% and 65% a deduction of 0.5% of the initial General Purpose Allocation will be made, which will locally amount to €90,000. So far, 61 % have paid the charge in the County.
Mr McCarthy added that spending will be prioritised for areas deemed most in need, with county roads earmarked for works.
Cllr James Tobin said that no matter how many people pay the charge, Waterford would still be left short vital funding.
“We are not getting €507,000 back no matter what. That tells people out there that you were right. Even if they pay the county will be left short. Where is that money gone to? I can hazard a guess that it’s gone to O’Reilly’s big hole in the health service. It’s a disgrace. They can glamourise it anyway they like, we are still down €600,000.”
Cllr Michael J. O’Ryan said that even if there was 100% compliance at this stage the County would still be fined, while Cllr Brendan Mansfield labelled the whole thing a “farce” and said it was bullyboy tactics by the Minister when he encouraged councils to follow the lead of the council in Clare when it came to delaying student grants for those who had not paid the charge.
He said there was a lot of anger amongst people who had paid the charge out of fear only to find out that cuts are still to be made in the area.
“The knife has still gone in, not as deep as we thought, but to the value of €600,000. It’s gone in to bail out the bondholders,” he added.
A significant surge in payment of the €100 Household Charge in North Tipperary in recent weeks has resulted in the lifting of a Government threat to further slash funding for local government services in the county.
During the summer Environment Minister Phil Hogan, noting that just over half of North Tipperary householders had paid the charge, threatened to cut the County Council’s Local Government Fund of €14.5 million by €1.5 million. Such a cut would have resulted in major cuts in local government services across the county.
But over the past six weeks or so a surge in payments saw a further 8 per cent of householders pay the charge, thereby removing the threat of the swinging cuts being imposed.
Two out of three householders in North Tipperary have now paid the new €100 charge, County Manager Joe MacGrath disclosed this week.
The manager said the council had thrown additional resources at the collection of the charge in a bid to get as much funding in as possible. The current figure of compliance is 66 percent.
Good news for the local council came on Friday last when the minister announced that local authorities where the compliance rate was at or above 65 percent would not be penalised with any further reductions in funding.
Mayor O’Meara said he had spoken to the County Manager Joe MacGrath and was assured that a €377,000 cut in funding imposed to date was “manageable”.
He said the manager Mr MacGrath had been successful in making savings through a number of other measures that would significantly reduce the impact of cuts already imposed in the Local Government Fund.
“That level of cut of €377,000 is a blow to us but we are able to carry it without any major effects on the people of North Tipperary,” said the Mayor.
He added: “The minister will not be coming back to us to make further cuts because he has given a commitment not to review funding allocations to council that have a compliance rate of 65 per cent or over.”
The minister has warned that councils who have failed to achieve that compliance threshold will have their funding reviewed in November.
via The Nenagh Guardian.
via The Nenagh Guardian.
THE abolition of town councils across the country could be announced as early as next Tuesday, it was claimed this week.
Cllr Pat O’Connell (FF) made the claim at Tuesday night’s meeting of Macroom Town Council, having attended a conference last week at which local government minister Phil Hogan gave a speech on the future of local authorities.
“From what I can gather, there is going to be reform but as to what kind he didn’t tell us. It seems to be that town councils will be abolished and replaced with municipal district councils,” Cllr O’Connell explained.
“If town councils go, Macroom will be dead. It will be a disaster for the town because it will be replaced by a municipal council with six or seven members for the entire Macroom electoral area, not the town,” he added.
Cllr Connie Foley (Ind) accused Minister Hogan of ‘ not knowing what he is doing.’
Mayor of Macroom Owen McCarthy (FF) said the issue was ‘ the single biggest challenge to come before the council.
“I am pleading with all members of the council to unite on this, we really need our TDs behind us. They have depended on our support in the past, this is our time,” he said.
In an interview on KCLR 96fm radio this morning Hogan defended his actions saying that he passed on these concerns to the local housing authorities “in good faith” and “without any direction from me or heavy-handedness”.
He told The Sue Nunn Show: “I’ve explained my position quite well, I am at the Ploughing Championships now and I have engagements here so thank you for giving me the opportunity to clarify my position.”
He then hung up as the presenter sought to question him further on the matter.
She said: “Minister Hogan needs to be informed that discrimination is unlawful including discrimination against members of the Travelling community.
The ineptitude of some front bench part members of FG in particular James Reilly, Phil Hogan, Leo Varadkar and John Perry is a cause for concern among backbenchers.
Speculation is rife that Hogan may have to go.
Speaking at the National Ploughing Championships in New Ross, he defended his decision to write the letter. He said he was entitled to write it.
He had earlier been urged to make a full statement over his apparent intervention in a housing allocation case to prevent a Traveller family from being housed.
The Irish Traveller Movement has expressed concern.
It said it understands that neither Minister Hogan nor Junior Minister Jan O’Sullivan have the legislative functions to impose or intervene in individual cases on accommodation matters.
“We are therefore concerned that in this case involving a family in Kilkenny that Minister Hogan should appear to intervene favourably on a constituent’s behalf, in what could be interpreted as being opposed to the favourable provision of housing to Travellers.”
Ms McDonald held up a copy of the Irish Daily Mail, where the story first appeared, saying Mr Hogan needed to be made aware that discrimination was illegal, including discrimination against Travellers.
Fianna Fáil’s Éamon Ó Cuív said at face value it was a very serious issue.
He said that a minister interfering in a housing allocation process to prevent a Traveller family being housed on the basis of them being Travellers would be “an extraordinary abuse of power”, as well as being illegal.
Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, Mr Ó Cuív called for Minister Hogan to publish the reference that he made to Kilkenny County Council.
MORE than 10,000 Mayo homeowners face potential legal action after failing to pay the household charge. n July, Mayo County Council had been threatened with cuts of €2.57 million from the Local Government Fund (LGF) if it did not improve collection rates of the charge. At that stage, the collection rate in Mayo was 63 per cent, but county manager Peter Hynes told a special meeting of Mayo County Council that as of yesterday (Monday) the figure now stands at 68.5 per cent. He said that a cut to the LFG would be “catastrophic” and noted that €641,589 was already deducted from the third quarter payment due to the council.
Following meetings with the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Minister Phil Hogan, the council have been told that if the collection rate reaches 75 to 80 per cent the Local Government Fund will be paid in full.
On the subject of food and tourism, the minister emphasised that while Kilkenny has a strong reputation as a food and tourism destination, “we cannot stand still” and this is the time to take that reputation a step further. Developing Kilkenny in this sector requires well planned and iconic projects in the city, centred on the river Nore and the city’s many medieval locations.
Retail regeneration is also something that could give a boost to the city, as “we now have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with the availability of the brewery site and the old mart site,” according to the minister. These sites, he said “would be ideal locations for new international brands to bring back customers that Kilkenny have lost to other regional centres.”
Use whatever means necessary to get the money says Hogan as he stands four square with councils over student grants
Those who have not paid their household charges should not receive student grants.
They are asking people, and they are putting in place plans to get in the remaining monies that are owed to them. That’s what any businesses would do” Says Hogan.
Earlier Education Minister Ruairí Quinn added his support to the councils.
If this was, a business charges the banks would be, broke, end of story, and the people would not be paying for government and banker’s mistakes.
The legality of what the councils are doing is questionable and may not stand up if questioned before the courts.
USI president John Logue said: “The action taken by Clare County Council must be condemned in the strongest terms. This is an unprecedented move. Never have I heard of a grant being refused until proof of payment is offered for a completely unrelated tax owed by another person.
“Students are being punished for the decisions of their parents and their education is being put at risk.”
Pamela Rochford, a spokesperson for the Clare branch of the Campaign against Household and Water Taxes, accused the council of using scare tactics with the move.
Sligo Borough Council (SBC) elected members are among a group of town and borough councillors that have made an 11th-hour plea to Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan not to abolish their local authority. SBC has been in existance for 400 years since it was granted a Royal Charter by King James I in 1613.
The publication of long-delayed plans for local government reform is expected next week. The Minister is due to address the annual conference of the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland (AMAI), which represents town, borough and city councils, in Ballinasloe, Co Galway tonight, Friday 14 September.
Free GP care
What the Minister failed to explain was that the end of the road for these tracks is to be found somewhere over the rainbow.
Hogan points to local authority failings
He should know from his own experience as a councillor, TD and Minister.
A man well versed in claiming the few bob
OAPs facing €5 travel charge
Ministers believe that old-age pensioners would not object to contributing towards the cost of travel. The forgoing statement is both presumptuous and arrogant but then that is typical of people whose masters are International banking.
Who said this?
All I ever need to know I learned from The Three Stooges.”
Young Fianna Fáil
YOUNG Fianna Failers are urging third-level students to join up and help resurrect the party’s fortunes.
Posters hung in college campuses across the country are using the story of Lazarus to urge students to become “part of the comeback”.
Looks like they have not studied the bible to well; if they had, they would recall the crucifixion of their Messiah not so long ago. They should also recall that their chief failed to rise from the dead.
Proposing speech for Motion That Waterford City Council demands that Minister Phil Hogan desist from his proposal to abolish Waterford City Council as an independent entity.
The Minister for the Environment & Local Government Phil Hogan is currently considering the abolition of Waterford City Council as a stand alone entity. I oppose this move as it would strip the city of a dedicated administration. Anyone who has visited either the newly opened medieval Museum or the Bishop’s Palace can see that for 800 years the city council has worked to protect the rights and privileges of this ancient city and the citizens that live here and make it the�place that it is today. Todays Council is the inheritor of that work and we continue to work to lead and develop our city. I for one am proud of our achievements so far.
via Cllr Mary Roche.
via Cllr Mary Roche.