Sunday 25 February 2018

Taoiseach insists the promise that water charges will average €240-a-year 'will not change'

Enda Kenny
Enda Kenny

Daniel McConnell, Group Political Correspondent

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has insisted that the Government's promise that water charges will on average be €240 a year "will not change".

Mr Kenny also insisted that the promise that children will be provided will also be honoured.

He came under fire from Sinn Fein's Peadar Tobin over the failure of Irish Water to publish details of charges yesterday, which led to angry scenes at an Oireachtas committee.

Mr Kenny said that the Government policy is clear and will not be reneged upon.

"The direction given by government to the regulator is that the average metered charge will be €240 a year and that children are free. That will not change. It is up to the regulator to decide what that allowance will be," he told the Dail.

Mr Kenny was also challenged by Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin about the reported split within Government over promises to cut property tax rates by 15 per cent.

Mr Martin called on the Taoiseach to clarify the position as to whether those election promises would be delivered upon.

Mr Kenny said that newly elected councillors, are entitled to reduce the property taxes by 15 per cent if they so wish. He added that the Government have already decided that 80 per cent of taxes will remain in the local area.

Mr Martin heavily criticised what he called the cynical and dishonest comments from Government on the property tax during the local elections, describing it a "slight of hand".

Mr Kenny responded by saying the introduction of a property tax was part of the process of a fair system to contribute to the running of services and said a property tax is six times more jobs friendly than income tax increases This morning it emerged that the planned cut in property tax for homeowners in bigger urban areas is causing a deepening split in the Coalition, the Irish Independent has learned.

Fine Gael wants councils who benefit from bigger tax takes to use the extra money to pay for services currently funded by the exchequer.

But Labour is pressing to give hard pressed householders a break by reducing their property tax rates.

Grants to the big local authorities who will rake in the most in property tax will be reduced if Fine Gael gets its way. That means those councils are unlikely to be able to reduce householders' tax bills.

Talks on the allocation of funding for local authorities from the exchequer are now in "stalemate", with Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore refusing to sign off on Fine Gael proposals which would penalise larger councils. "Their whole point in Fine Gael is if the councils have the money, it should go back to the central exchequer, not the householder," a government source said.

From next year, councils have the ability to cut or increase their rate by 15pc if they can manage their budgets.

With councils set to be given 80pc of the revenue collected locally next year, urban areas with larger populations and higher house prices will get a windfall so can afford to cut the property tax.

Homeowners in up to a dozen city and county council areas were expected to get a property tax rate cut next year. A briefing note prepared for the Economic Management Council said that between 12 and 14 councils would have sufficient funds to cut their rate, the Irish Independent has learned.

The locations include the four Dublin councils, Louth, Meath, Kildare and Wicklow, Cork city and Galway city. Based on the "current estimate", these councils will have the "flexibility" of reducing the property tax by up to 15pc, the memo says.


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