Council staff to knock on doors for €100 house charge
ENVIRONMENT Minister Phil Hogan has ordered city and county councils to set up teams of staff to call to the homes of people who refuse to pay the €100 household charge.
In an attempt to increase pressure on the 1.3 million households that have yet to cough up, Mr Hogan has instructed councils to create so-called "household charge collection teams" and begin targeting offenders from Monday week, the Irish Independent has learned.
The councils will have to redeploy hundreds of staff to undertake the massive clampdown -- but it is unclear how this will work.
Thousands of council staff have left in recent years, meaning that workers are often assuming a number of extra responsibilities to fill gaps in services.
The Government has not allocated extra funding to employ workers on a part-time basis, and figures published last night suggested that hundreds of thousands of house visits are likely to be needed.
Just 328,000 of the 1.6 million households required to pay the charge by next Saturday (March 31) have registered, the Department of the Environment said.
Thousands of people are expected to attend a rally against the tax at the National Stadium in Dublin today, with at least 15 TDs and a number of trade unions advocating mass non-payment.
But the Department of the Environment said it expected a late surge of registrations next week, adding that teams of local authority officials would begin door-to-door calls from Monday, April 2.
They will not wear uniforms but will have to carry and produce photo identification.
"We want the local authorities to be on the ground," a spokesman said.
"Come April 2, local authorities will start knocking on doors. The legislation provides for the local authorities to decide when it initiates court proceedings and we don't want people to get into legal action which can be costly.
"It's a matter for local authorities to decide what areas to targets. Staff will carry the appropriate identification."
The number of inspections to be carried out will be decided by individual councils, which will also decide how many staff to allocate to the task. Officials will be drawn from various council departments.
Households will also be given just two warnings -- one verbal, followed by a written warning -- before legal action is taken.
Yesterday Taoiseach Enda Kenny urged homeowners to pay, saying it was a "reasonable contribution" to help fund local services and the charges were lower than in the UK, where people paid up to €100 a month in council tax.
"This is a €2 charge per week and it's important that people understand that this has to be paid as a contribution toward providing services for people," he said.
"I understand that things are very challenging. The Government is trying to put our public finances back in order. I'd encourage everybody to come out and make sure that they make their contribution to this."
The household charge collection plan drawn up by the Department of the Environment says that work on ensuring compliance will "start immediately" once the deadline for registration passes.
Interest and late-payment penalties are added to the €100 charge if it is not paid on time, while people convicted in court face fines of up to €2,500 -- plus another €100 penalty per day if they refuse to pay after their conviction.