Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan, is now penalising local authorities for the chaos that he created in the household charge saga and it is a disgrace.
Not only is it deeply unfair, it will lead to serious funding problems in city and county councils around the country.
Cork County Council has been notified that its funding will be cut by €3.9 million in 2012. The Council will be unable to keep its commitments to local communities in the face of such a significant cut.
Mr. Hogan has of course played musical chairs with the blame for the Household Charge debacle. First he tried to blame the Troika, then of course Fianna Fail and then the printing company for failing to deliver leaflets. Finally he is blaming the Local Authorities for the outstanding charges and has decided to cut their budgets as a result.
It was Mr. Hogan alone who made a dog’s dinner of the Household Charge issue, there was a serious communications failure by him, an underestimating of public hostility towards the charge, a bypass of the Post Office as a collection point and a climb down on septic tank charges fuelling speculation that he would change tack on this charge too.
We all recall how the public felt bullied into paying the household charge and tens of thousands of households have resented that tactic, believing that bullies have to be stood up to.
The Tanaiste said that “hundreds of thousands of people won’t be taken to court” for not paying the charge, but that financial penalties and interest would be incurred for unpaid tax.
Nobody told us that the financial penalties would be levied instead on the Local Authorities before a penny was collected from householders who were in default.
It certainly is now confirmed as an unfair tax since those who have paid will have Local Authority provided services reduced before defaulters pay a single penny.
I am hugely concerned now and ask: What will the impact be on dealing with flood issues in Clonakilty, Balinascarthy, Rathbarry?
What hope now for the Swimming Pool in Dunmanway?
What about the upgrade of Clonakilty Sewage Treatment Plant?
What are the prospects now for advancing the Timoleague /Courtmacsherry Sewerage Scheme to construction stage?
What now for the business community in the 2013 budget and will rates have to be increased?
The Minister is currently treating Local Authorities as pure functionaries and has done more to undermine the position of elected members by summarily making their adopted budgets obsolete. The budget being one of the few remaining powers that councillors have.
Mr. Hogan disappeared during the Fiscal Compact Referendum and true to form he’s avoided the Dail Chamber with the timing of this announcement to hive €4 million of the budget of Cork County Council.
Incidentally, the €4 million cut is what is required to pay 511 approved grants to people who qualify for Housing Adaptation Grants , Mobility Aid Grants, Housing Aid for Older People Grants and which Cork County Council currently does not have.