Raft of charges on way under sweeping local authority audit
CONSUMERS will be hit with a raft of hikes in public service charges under sweeping new changes to how local authorities do their business.
A government-commissioned report has recommended the introduction of tolls across the national road network, an increase in the price of driving licences and a significant reduction in senior management positions in local authorities.
The independent Local Government Efficiency Review Group yesterday recommended a series of cost-saving and revenue-raising proposals which would save the State €350m and generate more than €150m in new income.
Under the move, local authorities would be run like private enterprises, charging the public and government departments what it costs them to provide a service without subsidies.
But the move would see cash-strapped workers hit with a raft of new charges.
- A €10 penalty for motorists who don't pay their motor tax online.
- Hikes in driver licence prices from €25 to €40, and a doubling in the replacement cost of a licence to €30.
- Tolls across the road network.
- Axing the 'off the road' exemption for motor tax.
- An eight-fold increase in planning fees for house extensions and new homes.
The Review Group was ordered by the Government to examine ways in which local authorities could save money and become more efficient.
The sector will spend €8.5bn this year, of which €4.7bn is on current spending such as staffing costs and providing services. Implementing all the changes would result in a €346m saving in efficiencies, and raise €165m a year in new revenue.
Most of this -- €115m -- would come from changing the motor tax regime.
Environment Minister John Gormley, who ordered the review, said while significant savings had already been made by local authorities, more were needed. "Economic considerations require us to bring a new and sharper focus to those sectors which spend significant sums in providing services to the public," he said.
"The recommendations contained in this report provide a solid basis for local government to operate in a more cost-effective and efficient manner and thereby to reinforce and maximise its contribution to economic recovery."
Labour and Fine Gael shot down plans to toll national roads, but said it was the "right time" to look at other local government reforms.
The efficiency group also proposes the merging of 20 city and county councils into 'joint administrative areas', which would result in the number of county managers falling from 34 to 26.
Cuts in other senior positions are also proposed, with the number of directors of service to fall by 20pc and middle managers by 15pc.
Sources last night said that changes to the motor tax regime, which would add €115m to local authority coffers, could be introduced as early as next year. Other changes, such as merging authorities, would require legislation.