Minister Brian Hayes said on The Week in Politics today, 25th November, that a full Property Tax would be introduced in the new year “to fund local services for communities”. Well the Government and every Council around the country better make sure they are actually providing services where they propose to levy the charge or risk the wrath of residents.
Fianna Fáil Area Representative for Naas, James Lawless, has uncovered figures pointing to a shocking disconnect between public services provided by Kildare County Council and those estates exempted from the household charge.
James pursued the issue when he became frustrated that requests for basic street lighting maintenance were going unanswered. “I was aware of a number of estates experiencing difficulty having street lighting serviced and I asked the council for answers” explained James. “I had anecdotal evidence of certain estates being ‘cut off’ from the maintenance regime. In frustration I eventually submitted a freedom of information request to get the full facts. To my shock and great disappointment the response to my FOI requests confirm that Kildare County Council have given instructions that 85 different estates across the county were now to have their public lighting services terminated. These estates were quite literally left in the dark, in terms of lighting but also in terms of information. I find this completely unacceptable” James stated. “There are affected estates from Caragh to Celbridge from Sallins to Suncroft. This is an issue right across the county”.
“While Kildare County Council have instructed that these 85 estates be cutoff from lighting services, meanwhile not even half that number were granted exemption status against the household charge tax. The exemption is supposed to apply to unfinished estates – on the one hand we are being told the cutoff estates are not finished and will no longer be serviced by the council – on the other hand we are being told they do not qualify as unfinished as far as the tax is concerned and they are considered liable to pay the household charge – to pay for local services which they do not even receive”.
“The decision is not even consistent – some estates not taken in charge continue to receive service whilst others in the same boat have been cutoff. A handful of the cutoff estates have received exemptions but the vast majority have not. In most cases they are being asked pay their household charge but simultaneously told as far as council maintenance goes the estate is unfinished. It makes no sense” claimed James.
“I have asked the council to justify their decision and I appeal to them to reverse it, I have also spoken to my party colleague Seán O’Fearghaill TD who is raising it directly with the Department”. “The council cannot have it both ways” James concluded – “They either consider these estates unfinished in which case they grant household charge exemptions immediately to all 85 affected estates. Or else they collect the charge but resume service provision. They cannot take the peoples money with one hand and cut off their services with the other. It is illogical, inconsistent and unfair and I am not finished with this by a long way” concluded James.