Councillors promised control on property tax charge
ENVIRONMENT Minister Phil Hogan has promised councillors more control on setting property tax bills for their local voters.
Under the current legislation, councils will only be allowed to reduce or increase the property tax charge in their areas by 15pc from 2015 onwards.
But Mr Hogan said that "over time" the level of tax could be altered by more than 15pc.
"Inevitably that's the way it will develop because I'm a very strong supporter of evolution of responsibility to local elected members who will be making decisions on behalf of the people they represent," he said.
The property tax is expected to be a key issue in the local elections next year – with candidates expected to promise voters that they will reduce it.
But in the meantime, people will have to pay half-a-year's property tax this year at a rate of 0.18pc on the value of their house and a full year's property tax in 2014.
Mr Hogan was speaking at a regional planning conference in NUI Maynooth yesterday.
He told delegates he planned to reduce the number of regional authorities that oversee the work of councils from 10 to just three – Connacht-Ulster, Southern and Eastern-Midland.
Mr Hogan said he hoped the new structure being put in place after next year's local elections would lead to better regional economic and planning policies.
"In this country over the years, some people may have come to see development plans more as 'developer' plans. We have seen the disastrous results of this type of approach," he said.
But Regional Studies Association chairman Chris Van Egeraat said the devil would be in the detail of how much power Mr Hogan gave to the new regional authorities.
He said they would still be made up of councillors nominated from each council rather than being directly elected by the public.
"We have members of local authorities overseeing themselves. How are they going to be critical of themselves?" he asked.
Yesterday, he also outlined guidelines which will give businesses who build their premises in a town centre a 20-30pc reduction on development charges.
Mr Hogan said the days of having massive out-of-town developments were over. "We want to regenerate town centres so they are not just pleasing to the eye," he said.