At least 700 Household Charge payments are needed within the next month by Laois County Council or the government will slash their final budget instalment, due in November, by another €132,000. County Manager Peter Carey says cutbacks to services will have to follow.
“With further cutbacks, we simply will not be able to deliver services,” said County Manager Peter Carey.
At yesterday (Monday’s) council meeting, he promised to do “everything in our power” to rack up the number of payments in the coming weeks, including possible legal action.
At present, 57 per cent, or 14,991 out of 26,185 properties have been registered in Laois. Another 2,000 homeowners need to register in the next month for the council to completely avoid another penalty in their final quarterly payment from the government, but if at least 700 pay up the penalty will be halved, from €131,989 to €66,949.
Last Friday Mr Carey says he was told by the Department of the Environment that the €409,000 deducted from September’s instalment will not be refunded, no matter how many payments come in from Laois householders.
That shortfall was met by extra income brought in by the NPPR payment of €80,000, savings in Fire Fees and Planning Enforcement, and savings or cuts to everything from halting sites and public toilets to tourism, training and even postage.
“There are a number of budgets under pressure. Roads, lighting, water, parking, we are doing our best to achieve certain levels. We will just have to look at things and set limits, we just won’t be able to do it all,” he said.
Public registration data is now to be used to follow up non-payers, and final reminder letters are to be sent out, with a threat of court.
“We will be doing everything in our power, it’s absolutely essential at this stage, it’s services we are talking about. I want to thank all those who have paid, and encourage all who haven’t paid to do it immediately,” he said.
Further penalties will be deducted from the final quarterly payment from the government of 0.5 per cent cut (€65,949) if less than 65 percent pay up, and 1 per cent €131,989) if less that 60 per cent of householders pay the €100 charge.
Cllr James Deegan backed the call for payments.
“This is very stark and sobering, if we were in the private sector, we’d be in administration. The reality is, will the lights be turned off, will the streets be cleaned, will fresh clean water be available? I think we should give the manager our full backing in whatever way he sees fit to collect this,” said Cllr James Deegan.
“You have to take into account people’s ability to pay. There was a survey during the week that said Laois and Cavan are top of mortgage arrears. If they can’t pay the mortgage, who can they pay a property tax,” said Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald.