Clarity sought on use of tax for Irish Water

by Gazette Reporter
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DESPITE a statement by the Department of the Environment allaying fears that the local property tax (LPT) will not be used to set up Irish Water, confusion still remains among Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown county councillors over how funds from the tax are to be used.
Cllr Melissa Halpin (PBP) said the delay in allocating local government funding, which caused the council’s budget meeting to be postponed until January 7, was over use of the local property tax to set up Irish Water.
She said: “It seems utterly bizarre that despite the fact that the national budget happened two months earlier, we still have no news from the department as to how the council is to be funded next year.”
However, this claim has been denied by a spokesperson for the Department of the Environment who said no LPT funds were being used to set up Irish Water.
A joint statement drawn up by Cllr Halpin and Dublin City PBP party colleague, Cllr Brid Smith, said: “Those of us who campaigned against the property tax, claiming it was just another austerity tax, have been vindicated.
“This tax is not about funding local services but is instead being used to fund the setting up of Irish Water – which will result in yet more taxes for ordinary people.”
This was denied by the Department of the Environment, who said all of the LPT will be reallocated to local councils.
A spokesperson for the department said: “None of the funding from the LPT is being used to set up Irish Water.
“The funding costs for the provision of water services have been stripped out of the local authority estimates for 2014, and these costs will now be met by Irish Water centrally.
“In addition, local authorities will enter into service level agreements for the provision of water services with Irish Water, and they will be fully compensated under these arrangements.
“The overall financial position for local authorities in 2014 will be much more favourable compared to 2013, and they will have an additional €98m extra available to them next year.”
When asked if any LPT funds would be used to install the new water meters, the spokesperson said: “Absolutely not.”
Cllr Halpin said: “The plan to use the LPT to fund local authorities was always wrong. Local authorities need a consistent source of funding that comes from central government and is raised by progressive general taxation.
“Basing the funding for our libraries and our communities on a flat-rate tax that takes no account of ability to pay is a recipe for disaster.”
Cllr Patricia Stewart (FG) was of the opinion that some of the LPT would be used to set up Irish Water.
She said the council “will be receiving this year at least 65% of local property tax collected, with approximately 15% retained for the establishment of Irish Water”.
A spokesperson for the council said: “Payments made in respect of the local property tax are redistributed by the department to local authorities to help fund services provided by them. The council’s general purpose grant for 2014 is €5.7m.
“With regard to the service level agreement, Irish Water will be allocated full responsibility for all aspects of water service planning, delivery and operation at national, regional and local levels following enactment of the necessary legislation.
“Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council will act as an agent of Irish Water to deliver water services in the county,” said the council spokesperson.

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