ENVIRONMENT Minister Hogan has been urged to make significant changes to the policy document on the reform of local government, 'Putting People First', by a local councillor who has expressed concern regarding two main areas.
Cllr. Ciaran Byrne (Lab) said his first concern related to the proposal to fund a large part of local government through an annual tax on residential property. Cllr. Byrne said that while experience around the world supported the funding of local services through local property taxes, there were two main problems with Minister Hogan's proposal given what he described as the ' lack of clarity in the document' on which powers would be transferred from the the council's management side to councillors. 'My first concern is that the current proposal will continue to centralise property taxes collected within a national 'equalisation' mechanism that re-distributes part of such taxes from counties such as Fingal to other counties around the country,' he said. ' At the same time, people in metropolitan areas, such as Fingal will pay higher property taxes than people in rural counties with similar houses because taxes will be based on property value which are higher in Dublin, Galway, Cork etc. This transfer is grossly unfair to urban families and urban communities paying higher level of tax.' 'Secondly, if, as Minister Hogan proposes, democratically elected members of councils are to have greater powers, that will include the power to vary the rate of property tax, then these powers need to be clearly established in full before the next local elections in 2014 so that people can see what the prospective candidates intend to do with these new powers.'