Tuesday 21 November 2017

Councils will set own property tax rates

Fionnan Sheahan and Paul Melia

Property tax rates will ultimately be different in cities and counties across the country when councils get additional powers under a reform of local government.

The Government is also set to continue to penalise councils financially in counties where there is a low rate of payment of the tax -- similar to the household charge system.

Although the property tax will be collected by the Revenue Commissioners, a local breakdown of payment of the tax will still be available.

In years to come, Environment Minister Phil Hogan said, councils will set the rate of property tax in th

eir own city and county.

"Each local authority can have a different property tax in due course. The timing of that is a matter for Government," he said.

Mr Hogan was speaking at the launch of the biggest reform of local government in over 100 years.

The plan will save €420m over the next four years, see the abolition of town councils, a reduction in the number of councillors and redraw the local electoral map.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the reform of local government was "long overdue" and part of the Government's "wider mission of reform".

Mr Kenny said the Government's plan will "completely redesign and relaunch" local government in Ireland.

"By the end of our term in office we will have delivered on our promise to overhaul our political system, economy and public services," he said.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said reform is "never easy".

"There will be people who will find reform uncomfortable, because it will change the way they have worked, in some cases over many decades," he said.

Mr Hogan said the plan involved the "fundamental re-imagining of local government".

"It sees local government leading economic, social and community development, as well as delivering efficient services," he said.

Critical

But Mr Hogan's plan received a mixed response from interest groups. A variety of town councillors across the country were predictably critical of the abolition of their councils.

Fianna Fail environment spokesman Barry Cowen, who was prevented from attending the launch of the plan at Dublin Castle, said the proposals would eliminate the least expensive layer of local government and further centralise power in Ireland.

"It represents another opportunity wasted by a Government that promised real reform and was given an unprecedented mandate to deliver it.

"Hogan's plan will save some expenditure, but it will reduce the connection between the citizen and government at a time when we know that communities all over the country are crying out for more transparency in public affairs," he said.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan described the plan as a "frightful stitch-up": "It's very much leaving the city and county managers in control. In terms of the big changes, he hasn't done any of them," he said.

The Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland (AMAI), which represents town and city councils, broadly welcomed the announcement by Mr Hogan.

"However, AMAI does regret the huge reduction, 40pc, in the number of elected members which will leave Ireland with one of the weakest local government systems in Europe."

Comment: Phil hogan

Irish Independent

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