Library, playground and other services will be cut if the Household Charge remains unpaid County Hall’s top official has warned who also revealed that the council has banked €1.4 from fees already paid.
At last Monday’s council meeting, Mr Peter Carey, County Manager, promised to do everything in his power to collect the charge, but admitted that without a database, his hands were tied.
“We are operating within the shackles of the system, we are not allowed to follow up unpaid charges, we have no database, but whatever follow-up needs to be done, will be done,” he said.
He confirmed that the Revenue Service will eventually take on the collection of the €100 charge, the forerunner of a property tax.
“They have powers that we don’t have. But that is further down the line. People will pay the penalties, that is the bottom line,” he said.
Mr Carey said €1.4million has been paid up by 14,000 Laois householders. This is a 50 per cent response, below the national average of 58 per cent. The council are to be deducted €409,000 from their third quarter of government funding as a result, with a further threatened cut of €1.2 million for the final quarter.
The county manager said he understands why people didn’t pay.
“People took a protest position with regard to the bank bailouts, but the time has come, it is now having a direct impact on libraries and playgrounds, I think the vast majority will come forward, I am calling on them to take this action. Money is still coming in all the time,” he said.
Cllr Michael Phelan said the government handled it disgracefully,
“The government wants local authorities to screw people into paying the charge. Now they are saying that’s going to fail and bring in Revenue. It’s up to the minister, it was handled disgracefully,” he said.
Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald said “bully boy tactics” were being used by the Minister for Environment Phil Hogan.
“This was a total mess from the word go, everyone knew it was going to fail. They used bully boy tactics, bullying local authorities. It’s not our fault, the book stops with him,” she said.
Cllr James Deegan blamed both the minister and the council for inadequate collection mechanisms.
“The local authorities treated it as a bit of a joke, they didn’t put in any mechanism. There wasn’t a notice on the door of County Hall, there wasn’t a receipt book. People had to queue. You were giving away €100 and you were put through the wringer to do it. The chickens have come home to roost now, We have fallen down on our job to collect the charge. We have given away our water, our grants, we are shooting ourselves in the foot on a continual daily basis, we stand for nothing at the moment. What responsibilities do we have? Votes of sympathy and disposal of land,” he said.
His comments were rejected by several other councillors, including Cllr Padraig Fleming.
“Everybody in this chamber and building work hard, and totally enhance the lives of Laois people,” he said.