Labour planning to cut property tax
Plan central plank of its local and European election campaigns
The Labour Party is planning to gazump its Coalition partner by making cuts in property tax the central plank of its local and European election campaigns.
Amid reports that the party faces a real struggle to retain even one MEP, a senior party source told the Sunday Independent: "Cutting property tax will be a gesture of atonement. We over-promised in the past and cutting property tax will represent an initial instalment to the squeezed middle.''
The source added that property tax was an issue in Dublin in particular.
"There is a sense of Dublin versus the country – the tax is far higher in Dublin."
Speaking to the Sunday Independent, the Social Protection Minister Joan Burton confirmed: "We are looking at all options in this regard. We haven't signed off on anything yet, but it is one of the things we are looking at.''
Ms Burton, who is Labour's national director of elections, added that after years of austerity "there has to be an element of give-back in our proposals."
Ms Burton also warned of the higher level of property tax in certain areas of Dublin and that consideration has to be given to a more equitable solution. "We are looking to see in areas where some charges have been very high, is there some way of mitigating it," she said.
One senior Labour figure said the figures stacked up for a reduction in property tax.
"This is not plucked out of the air, it is a mathematical calculation that there will be a sufficiency of funds to do this and still bring in a balanced budget.''
Another top-level Labour source admitted: "This is entirely partisan, we are seizing the political initiative on this and saying Labour councillors will cut your property tax. You might say it is a bit of competitive underbidding where Labour will be associated with some good news."
The move is likely to play well in Dublin especially, which in terms of this year's elections has been described as representing "Labour's Stalingrad''.
However, the new strategy is likely to accelerate tensions within the Coalition, particularly in the more rural wing of Fine Gael.
Another senior Labour source said: "It's a reasonable opening gambit and if Fine Gael are upset – well they are not being good civil partners themselves at the moment.''
They also confessed: "This is only the start of it you know, election fever has struck, you will not get a lick of sense out of anyone in this place until after May 25."