By Lynda Kiernan firstname.lastname@example.org @laoisnews
Laois councillors have voted to raise Local Property Tax by 10 percent, after one pointed out that it had never brought extra cash to Laois.
Fianna Fáil Cllr Jerry Lodge proposed the rise in LPT for Laois homeowners, recommended by the council CEO.
Cllr Lodge noted that the tax, introduced in 2013, never brought extra income for Laois, as the government had then cut central funding.
“If we don’t get the money, we can’t perform to the level people expect from us. LPT has given Laois not one penny extra. We were sold it as a way to generate extra income,” Cllr Lodge said.
The extra 10 percent will bring €492k directly to Laois.
“For the first time we will be able to generate income for ourselves,” he said.
Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael councillors united to vote for the raise, 11 votes against four by Sinn Féin and non-party members. Four were absent.
Those voting against pointed out that much of the money will go to pay for legal fees over the councillors' failed attempt to ban wind farm development in Laois.
Sinn Féin Cllr Aidan Mullins proposed no change.
“Most of that €492k is not going to be available as we see fit, because of this judicial review we are stuck with, over an ill advised decision in this chamber,” he said.
Cllr Brendan Phelan agreed. “The county manager said it was a major error in withdrawing any consideration for wind, and it would be open to legal challenge. Today you are looking for a 10 percent increase, but we are exposing householders of Laois to carry the can,” he said.
Fine Gael Cllr Mary Sweeney took issue with the “ill-advised” comment.
“We were justified making that decision,” she said.
Fine Gael Cllr Willie Aird said to “speak positively”.
“There is just a part being left aside in case we have to go to a solicitor. There was no wrong decision made, we were democratically elected by our communities to act on their behalf,” he said.
Fine Gael Cllr John King said if the €120k for legal fees is not needed, it would be spent in their areas.
“There is no point being negative when the country is positive. Sometimes in life you have to move forward and make decisions, sometimes right, sometimes wrong.”
The tax is for local services like paths, lights, traffic calming, libraries, parks and community grants.
Out of the extra €492k, €131k is set aside for legal challenges to the county development plan. There will be €89,600 spent on Portlaoise and Portarlington leisure centres. Another €59k is for tourism, with €20k for homeless, €39k for roads, €34k for the fire service, and €30k for corporate services.
The 19 councillors get an extra €1k each, now with €22k eachto spend on projects.