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Council offices to open on Saturday in last-gasp bid for €100 payment

CITY and county council headquarters will be opened on Saturday in a desperate attempt to get people to pay the €100 household charge before the deadline.

And there will also be a last- minute advertising blitz in the local and national press as the Government puts its hopes on a last-minute payment rush.

Both moves were made at the request of Environment Minister Phil Hogan, who again ruled out an extension to Saturday's deadline. He warned that people who did not pay this week would face a €10 fine if they waited till next week or later. And he said he had faith in Irish people paying up "close to the wire".

It was revealed yesterday that another 31,754 people had paid the charge in the last 24 hours and that 27 postbags full of household charge payment forms had arrived. But with just 395,232 households paying so far, three-quarters of the 1.6 million eligible households have not paid with four days to go.

Speaking in Beijing last night, Taoiseach Enda Kenny urged people to pay the household charge.

"We set out what the law is here and I encourage everybody during the course of this week to make their payment. It's for their own local area, for their own local services and the provision of the council offices will be open all day on Saturday to facilitate that," he said.

In the Dail, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore denied accusations by the Opposition that he was bullying and threatening people to pay the charge

"No one likes additional charges and we would all prefer if we did not need to introduce or pay this one, but it is a reality and must be paid by 31 March," he said.

Mr Gilmore again admitted that there had been "difficulties" with paying the charge, which cannot be made over the counter in post offices. It can only be done online, by post or in local authority offices.

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin suggested the low numbers were due to the failure to send out invoices -- adding that people liked to receive a bill. But a government spokeswoman denied there were any divisions in cabinet about the charge.

Salaries

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said his party was bringing forward a bill to extend the deadline for payment, saying the issue had been badly handled.

"Leaflets are still coming in the door in the last week before the deadline," he pointed out.

Sinn Fein is bringing forward its own bill to scrap the household charge entirely, which, like the Fianna Fail one, is also going to be rejected by the Government.

Leader Gerry Adams said public sector salaries should be cut to a maximum of €100,000 to save €265m -- which was more than the €160m revenue target for the household charge.

Socialist Party leader Joe Higgins called on Mr Gilmore to withdraw the plan to send out local authority workers "to hound pensioners, the unemployed and decent, compliant taxpayers" by reminding them about the requirement to pay the charge.

Irish Independent