A BITTER war of words erupted at Listowel Town Council on Monday night when a number of councillors clashed over the household charge and possible cuts to services for the town.
Although town manager, Charlie O'Sullivan, confirmed that Listowel Town's Council's budget would not be affected this year, it wasn't before some councilors locked horns in an extremely heated debate on the issue.
Fianna Fail Councillor Tom Walsh accused Environment Minister Phil Hogan of punishing those who have paid the Household Charge by threatening to cut services, and said his severe tactics are impacting on those who have paid.
"The idea is badly implemented and ill-conceived and the whole issue has been mishandled. The Department of Environment told us what our local government funding allocation would be for 2012 and we went ahead and prepared our budget and nowhere along the way were we told that our allocation would depend on the take up of the Household Charge," he said. "It's an utter disgrace and as someone who has paid the charge I feel we are being doubly punished. Minister Hogan is now asking our county manager to do his dirty work for him and putting councils in an impossible position."
An irate Cllr Tim O'Leary described Cllr Walsh's comments as 'stomach churning' and 'spurious in the extreme' and said that it was Cllr Walsh's party who 'wrecked' the country's economy in the first place. He said the government is trying to come up with new ideas to bring the economy back to recovery and said it was not right that some parties are encouraging people not to pay and ultimately break the law.
Mayor of Listowel, Sinn Fein's Tom Barry took offence at Cllr O'Leary's comments and warned him to tread carefully before calling people who cannot afford to pay the charge law-breakers.
"I know many people who simply don't have the money to pay so I'd be extremely slow to label those people law breakers," he said.
FG councillor Den Stack also attacked Cllr Walsh, describing his comments as utter rubbish.
"It's a disgrace that Cllr Walsh could utter those words in here when it was his party who bankrupted the country," he said. "And if people cannot afford to pay, then the county manager will deal with them on their merits."
Cllr Walsh said he refused to go 'down to the gutter' and reply to the remarks that were made about his motion, but simply asked the town manager to clarify the matter regarding possible cuts to the council's budget.
Mr O'Sullivan confirmed that Listowel Town Council's 2012 budget would not be affected, but said he could not as yet say what would happen next year. He said the council executive would be looking at ways to make adjustments without impacting on services.