€500 fee for calling fire service 'is being ignored'
HOUSEHOLDERS hit with a controversial new €500 fee for calling out the fire brigade are largely ignoring it, the Irish Independent has learned
New figures show that Dublin City Council has collected just a fraction of the money due in fees for the services of the fire brigade after charges it introduced in January this year.
In the first three-and-a-half months of its introduction, just €12,350 out of €101,860 due was collected.
The new charges force householders to pay fees of €500 for the first hour Dublin fire brigade attends a blaze.
The €500 levy also applies when the fire officers are called to tackle a chimney fire or respond to a 999 emergency only to find it is a false alarm.
The fee rises to €610 for the first hour attending a road traffic incident. And for every subsequent hour, charges of €450 to €485 apply for each tender.
City Manager John Tierney confirmed: "Up to the end of April 2012, 184 invoices have been issued in relation to domestic callouts amounting to €101,860. To date, €12,350 has been collected."
Clare Crosbie, a senior staff officer overseeing the issue at Dublin City Council, warned that while penalties would not be imposed on those who did not pay, other avenues would be explored to ensure money was recouped.
"If anybody has difficulty paying €500 up front, we make arrangements for them to pay in instalments.
"At the moment, the procedure is people are receiving reminders. We haven't yet considered fining, and we won't be fining, but we will be looking at what other options we will pursue should people not pay up."
She conceded that the "whole concept is new to people".
The intention from the beginning was that people would claim this on their insurance policy, but that message is only filtering out now.
Irish Insurance Federation non-life manager Michael Horan condemned the charges as a double taxation, but confirmed that insurance policies would cover the charge.
"Fire brigade charges are generally covered under household insurance policies. People are already paying for the fire service through their taxes so with these fees you're being charged a second time," he said.
Homes without insurance are dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
Dublin City Council insists the decision to introduce charges was not taken lightly, but was necessary.