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Middle class face €200 levy in move to protect poor

WORKING families face paying a household charge of up to €200 from next year to help ease the burden on groups like pensioner and the unemployed.

Under a number of options being considered by Environment Minister Phil Hogan, the new tax could see better-off families paying more to allow greater scope for exemptions.

But the moves could put Mr Hogan on a collision course with Labour backbenchers -- not on the introduction of the charge, but how it is brought in.

The EU-IMF bailout deal obliges the Government to introduce a property tax next year and an interim measure will be brought in until a method of charging people according to the value of their homes can be implemented.

It is understood that two options are on the table for the interim tax. One of these involves a €200 charge with greater scope for exempting vulnerable people and those on social welfare, while the other is a flat €100 charge for almost everyone.

While acknowledging the tax would come in, Labour TDs last night demanded the options be discussed before their parliamentary party so they could consult their ministers before a final decision is made by Cabinet. Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton recently discussed his controversial proposals for changing wage rates with Labour TDs but a similar move was firmly ruled out last night by Mr Hogan's spokesperson -- who said it would be up to the Cabinet to make a decision.


"The Parliamentary Labour Party will not be briefed before the Cabinet makes a decision," she said.

"I would hope that the Labour Party would have trust in their cabinet ministers to make a decision on their behalf. He (Mr Hogan) would like to have agreement with his cabinet colleagues before a decision is announced."

She confirmed Mr Hogan would bring proposals to Cabinet on the issue in the next three weeks. He would not consult the Fine Gael parliamentary party either.

The Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) will meet for the final time this week before the Dail rises for its summer recess on Thursday.

Dublin Mid-West TD Joanna Tuffy said ministers would have to take the considerations of backbenchers on board, while Dublin North-West's John Lyons said the tax must be applied in a way that protects the less well-off.

"Any decision that has to be made must be equality-proofed, and the premise that those who can afford it pay more should apply," he said. "You can bet your bottom dollar it will be consulted at the PLP."

Meanwhile, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore has warned the cuts to come in the next two Budgets are going to be "painful" for ordinary people.

"We don't have a choice as a country," he told the Irish Independent. "This country's economy has to be turned around."

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton also said younger people choosing welfare payments as a "lifestyle choice" would not be tolerated -- unsettling some Labour backbenchers.

Ms Tuffy said she "didn't believe" people made a decision to take welfare payments as a lifestyle choice.

Irish Independent