Houshold charge panto

thousands of letters have been sent out by Laois County Council demanding payment of the Household Charge, but many were sent to people who had already paid.

The latest twist in the household charge debacle has incensed councillors, some of whom received the letters themselves.

County Manager Peter Carey says they had no choice but to send the letters, and will seek a government refund for postage costs.

“I don’t disagree we should be refunded. We are between a rock and a hard place. We will write off looking for a refund, we will not be responsible for closing down services,” he said.

He says he had no choice but to send out the letters.

“Through no fault of our own, we were told in August we were down €409,000. We had balanced our books to that point. Thanks very much. The other side of the argument is if we don’t pursue this payment, it costs us another €100,000. It would be self defeating,” he said.

Cllr Willie Aird want the county manager to lead a deputation to Minister Hogan demanding a refund of postage.

“This charge was put on staff that were already over worked. I was inundated with people who got bills that had already paid. Nobody wanted to pay it, and now they are absolutely incensed they got a bill in the post. I got one myself. A man who was 93 and in a home for the past five years, with his house vacant, got a bill, it was very upsetting,” he said.

Mr Carey said having no national database of addresses was the root of the problem.

“I have no difficulty apologising to people who got a bill that have already paid. This was a new tax introduced in March, then they charged us with going out and collecting it, and advised us we were going to be penalised if we didn’t.

“We can only ask people to bear with us. I am again calling on those who haven’t paid to do so. The bill is €127. They took a stance, but it is now having a direct influence on our finances,” he said.

Local TD Brian Stanley says the Household charge has become “an expensive pamtomime”.

“I have been inundated with members of the public calling my constituency office stressed and worried by these threatening letters.

“The latest revelation should be the final episode in this sorry saga,” he said, adding that Sinn Féin have requested a Dáil debate on the issue.

“Minister Hogan must be brought to account for this mistake. He can no longer hide behind a government quango, the Local Government Management Agency.

“From the onset Sinn Féin said the Household Charge was unjust, unworkable and now it is time the government realised this and reversed this charge.” he said.

Cathaoirleach of Laois County Council Paul Mitchell also got a letter despite having already paid the charge.

“It was an error in the address. I would ask that people who did get letters contact us, if they want to avoid getting more,” he said.