Fianna Fail urges councillors not to hike property tax
Freeze charges to help cut costs for families, says Cowen
Fianna Fail has urged party councillors to vote down any attempts by city and county councils to increase the property tax next year.
In a letter to councillors, Fianna Fail's housing spokesman Barry Cowen said it was the party's policy to "cut costs for families", and increasing property tax would not be in line with this commitment.
Mr Cowen said he understood there had been discussion among council members about increasing the tax due to a "lack of funding for local services" due to the housing crisis. However, he insisted increasing property tax should not be "considered or agreed".
"While this is a matter that is solely at the discretion and control of local councillors it is important that we all remember that one of our main commitments in our general election manifesto last year was to cut costs for families," he said
"Increasing the local property tax when there is meant to be a freeze until 2019 is not conducive to this commitment," he added.
Councillors are free to increase or decrease property tax by 15pc once it does not affect their local authority's overall budget.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Mr Cowen said the Government is trying to scapegoat councillors and local authorities for the housing crisis.
"The Government say money is not a problem, then why are they ridiculing councils for not putting up the property tax?" he said.
"It suits the Government to make the councils carry the can because of the lack of funding they are giving them," he added.
Fianna Fail finance spokesman Michael McGrath has also written to Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe asking for an urgent review of potential property tax hikes once the freeze ends in 2019.
Mr McGrath said it was "not acceptable" that households would face a "dramatic hike" in property tax due to rising house prices.
"This is a major source of concern for many individuals and families and I believe now is the time for Government to properly examine how this issue can be dealt with fairly and provide some clarity and certainty to households as to what lies ahead for them," he said.
He also asked the minister for an update on the implementation of recommendations set out by Dr Don Thornhill in his review of property tax. Mr Thornhill's central recommendation was to introduce Government set minimum yields for property tax collection which can only be increased by 15pc.
Mr Donohoe noted this recommendation in his response and said households will be alerted to changes to the tax "well in advance".