Leitrim County Council has confirmed to the Leitrim Observer that 64.2% of households in Leitrim have paid the Household Charge so far, adding to the €100 million received to date from 990,459 households nationally.
Deputy County Manager, John McGuinness, thanked the households in Leitrim who have paid the Household Charge to date and confirmed that the proceeds of the charge will be used to fund essential local services.
He outlined however that these services are at risk if the remaining owners do not pay the charge and appealed to these owners of residential properties to register and pay the Household Charge as soon as possible so that Leitrim County Council are in a position to continue to provide these local services.
Leitrim County Council’s 2012 Budget and Work Programme will be the subject of review in September in the context of the shortfall in Household Charge payments.
It is understood some areas of public spending in the county will see a cutback in funding as a result of people not paying the Household Charge. Areas like litter control, the maintenance of local authority houses, the repair of potholes, verge trimming and bridge maintenance will all be affected by the Government’s punishment cuts in the Council’s budget.
The Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) has advanced the process of analysing data to identify householders who have not yet registered and paid the Household Charge.
The first data set was completed and letters were issued by Leitrim County Council in July. A second data set is due for completion in September with further letters being issued by the Council then. Home owners’ identities have been gleaned from a variety of sources, including Revenue Commissioners, utility companies and the Department of Social Welfare. Local authorities have legislative power to bring legal proceedings for an offense.
Before any proceedings are commenced however, those who haven’t paid will be written to and given the opportunity to pay. Penalties and interest will continue to accrue for those who have not yet paid the charge. All owners of residential property in Ireland are liable for the household charge on each residential property they own, as at 1st January 2012.
This includes those properties that are liable for the €200 charge on Non-Principal Private Residences (NPPR). Owners of Irish residential properties who live outside Ireland are also required to register for and pay the household charge.
Sinn Féin Councillor Martin Kenny claims that the cuts to Leitrim County Council services are a result of Government policy to pay private banking debts and the household charge debate is a distraction, designed to make villains of people who can’t afford to pay or who want to make a principled stand on the issue.
Cllr Kenny said, “Cuts in council funding have nothing to do with household charge and the attempt to blame the people who have not paid the €100 is a distraction from the real issue of the sustained removal of finances away from the Councils. In April this year, before the household charge was being put forward as the excuse for cuts, I had a motion before the Leitrim County Council regarding the closure of offices in Ballinamore, in response the County Manager Jackie Maguire, outlined the dire state of affairs due to cuts in the roads budget and the local government fund.
The County Manager said, “Over the period 2008 to 2012 the Local Government Fund has reduced from €16.3m to €11.8m (27.6% reduction) and funding for regional and local roads fell by 32%. In addition over the same period staffing resources have reduced from 349 at 31 December 2008 to 275 at 29 February 2012, a reduction of 21%. The Area Budget for 2012 as presented to the Council is €9.53m as opposed to €20.8m in 2008. 90% of the Area Budget is funded through the roads allocation which has been steadily decreasing over the past four years. Based on the present level of funding available and the current workforce (which has decreased from 88 in 2008 to 69 in 2012), the Council is facing a funding crisis regarding its ability to fully cover payroll costs in 2012.”
“This makes frightening reading, the Government has cut the budget of Leitrim County Councils almost in half since 2008. The Manager also said that “the national fiscal and economic situation continues to impact significantly on the financial position of the Council.” In other words, money that was used in the past to fund Local Authorities has been and is still being used to pay the private debts of banks; this is the real reason for the cuts in services. Government policy on the big issues that put the interest of the markets and bondholders before the needs and rights of citizens is at the heart of this.
Even if everyone paid it, the amount of money that the household charge would bring in is tiny compared to the millions cut from the budget of the Leitrim County Council. The discussion about the people who did pay, or who didn’t pay, is a complete diversion. It is a cynical attempt to make villains out of the people who either can’t afford to pay it, or who want to make a principled stand by refusing to pay and create division among people. The real villains of this little drama, high in the establishment have done the dirt on the Councils over the past four years and are now trying to cover for it by creating confusion around the household charges.”
With the threat of legal action, campaigners against the charge say they will provide legal advice and support for anyone taken to court for non-payment.
Payment of the charge and all penalties due can be made online at www.householdcharge.ie, by posting an application form to PO Box 12168, Dublin 1 or at Carrick-on-Shannon, Manorhamilton or Mohill County Council Offices. For further information and FAQs log on to www.householdcharge.ie or LoCall 1890 357357.