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Only 20pc have paid household charge with week to deadline

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TD Joe Higgins addresses demonstrators at yesterday's protest rally by the Campaign Against Household Tax. Photo. Julien Behal

TD Joe Higgins addresses demonstrators at yesterday's protest rally by the Campaign Against Household Tax. Photo. Julien Behal

TD Joe Higgins addresses demonstrators at yesterday's protest rally by the Campaign Against Household Tax. Photo. Julien Behal

As of yesterday, only 20 per cent of 1.6 million residences had so far paid the household charge, as the deadline of March 31 looms.

And thousands of anti- household charge campaigners are to planning to disrupt Fine Gael's ard fheis in Dublin city next Saturday.

Leaders of the campaign, including United Left Alliance TD Richard Boyd Barrett, are calling on those opposed to the charge to gather at Parnell Square next Saturday, before marching to the Convention Centre in the Dublin docklands to protest against the €100 annual charge.

The protest is timed to take place hours before the deadline for the charge expires.

More than 3,000 people attended a protest rally in Dublin's National Stadium yesterday -- and the overflow was so large that the speakers had to go outside to address the crowd.

Close-of-business figures from the Department of the Environment last Friday show that 328,000 households have now paid or registered to pay the charge. That compares with around 250,000 last Tuesday.

After the March 31 deadline, penalties will be incurred.

The department is also planning a second leaflet drop this week using An Post, and radio, TV and newspaper advertising will continue.

When asked what was the target figure for payments by the end of this week, the Department said the figure was 1.6 million and added there would be no extension of the deadline.

Around 100 local authority offices around the country will be open next Saturday so people can pay the charge -- however, there have been complaints from some people who paid the charge that they were not given receipts.

The push to collect the money is being led by Environment Minister Phil Hogan who has instructed county councils to create 'household charge collection teams' to target offenders and knock on people's doors from April 2.

The number of inspections to be carried out, and how many staff to allocate to the task, will be decided by individual councils.

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Households will also be given just two warnings -- one verbal, followed by a written warning -- before legal action is taken.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has urged homeowners to pay the charge, 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.

However, the Campaign against Household and Water Taxes, with the support of some TDs , is advocating mass non-payment of the charge saying it is unfair and will lead to more expensive charges once people have registered on to a database.

Organisers of yesterday's rally in Dublin said it was to send a message nationwide that the non-registration movement can defeat the tax if people stay united.

"A lot of people are taking heart by seeing that their neighbour, their workmate, their cousin, their friend etc is not paying," said Ruth Coppinger, spokeswoman for the Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes.

A late payment fee of €10 will apply if the charge is paid within six months of the due date, €20 between six and 12 months and €30 if the payment is 12 months late.

People convicted in court face fines of up to €2,500 -- plus another €100 penalty a day if they still refuse to pay.

Sunday Independent