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Joan shows that all is not well over house tax

CRACKS in the Cabinet have been exposed by the fiasco of the Household Charge.

Labour Minister Joan Burton and Fine Gael's Phil Hogan are at odds with each other over the terms of the payment of the controversial fee.

The Department of the Environment has dismissed suggestions that the post office could collect payments for the household charge over the counter, as had been hinted at by Minister Burton.

It also wrote off the idea that the deadline for payment might be extended.

Sources say that Ms Burton has found herself in hot water with some of her Cabinet colleagues.

"She calls it like it is, which is refreshing, but doesn't win her any friends," they said.

"She's already sparking with Eamon Gilmore and now she can add Phil Hogan to that list."

A source added: "The household charge is fast turning into a fiasco. There was a hope that 60pc or 70pc would have paid by the deadline but that seems extremely unlikely now."

Just one in five households or 328,000 have paid or registered to pay the €100 household charge but the Department of Environment said they will not move the deadline.

"Minister Burton's earlier remarks were at variance with the reality," a source said.


"It appears now that the deadline won't be extended and the post office option won't be available in time for the deadline."

Ms Burton, the Minister for Social Protection, earlier said that the post office payment would have been her preference "if possible" and mistakenly said arrangements were being put in place to allow people to pay the €100 charge locally.

MS Burton also described next Saturday's deadline as "ambitious".

"The post office is a very appropriate mechanism (for payment)," Ms Burton said at the weekend. "I think it's taken quite a while to set up the mechanics and March 31 is probably an ambitious target date. If they can, people should actually pay.

"Next year and the year after we will have brought in a better system which will be fairer.

"People want to pay but the payments system should have been easier from the start," she added.

However, her early remarks sparked swift reaction from the Department of Environment and Minister Phil Hogan insisted that "the position has not changed".

Mr Hogan said people can access the forms for the payment in the post office but they cannot pay through the post office. "They will have to send the payment through the post or pay online," he said. "The deadline and the arrangements for payment remain the same."

A new mechanism to allow for the transfer of data between agencies and semi-State companies such as the ESB will not be in place until the end of the month.

Negotiations with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner would be completed shortly and protocols to allow the transfer of data would be in place by the March 31 payment deadline.

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