Council ignores warning and cuts property tax

by Gazette Reporter

FINGAL County Council has voted to reduce the local property tax (LPT) by 15% for the second year running, with 28 in favour of the move, three against and five abstentions.
The debate prior to the vote was impassioned, with a number of councillors arguing that the reduction in the council’s revenue limits the amount of work it can do, while their opponents maintained that central government should be providing this funding.
Fingal chief executive Paul Reid advised against reducing the LPT, saying it would have a huge impact on the council’s budget.
He said: “There is a total of €7.4m available for Fingal in terms of discretionary spend after the various allocations are made on it [the budget].
“The 15% reduction which the members chose last year was a €5.5m decision for one year. That is the impact – it would leave about €1.8m discretionary spend,” he said.
He went on to say that housing and homelessness cost the council a lot of money and wouldcontinue to do so in the next year. He said the homeless budget had risen from €450,000 to €2.1m in just a few years, and that reducing the LPT would be a drain on funding which could be used for housing and homeless services.
However, Cllr Paul Donnelly (SF) said that the LPT was an unnecessary burden on hard-pressed families, and that there were alternative ways to make up the shortfall in revenue. He said one of these alternatives was to increase commercial rates, as the rates in Fingal were the lowest in the greater Dublin area.
He said there had been spurious attempts by various people to present the option of no reduction as a solution to the housing crisis.
“The citizens of this country know full well who is to blame for the housing crisis. It lies at the door of the right-wing ethos of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and unfortunately Labour, who have bought into this, in terms of privatisation of social housing.
“The complete abandonment of social housing goes back a number of years, when a decision was made to withdraw from the direct provision of social housing, thereby leaving it in the private market,” said Cllr Donnelly.
Cllr Duncan Smith (Lab), who was advocating a 10% reduction which he said would allow the council to retain funding for services whilst alleviating some of the burden on homeowners, hit back at Cllr Donnelly, saying: “[On] every manager’s report, we see more social housing planned. Is it enough? No, it’s not going to solve it [the housing crisis] – no one is saying any of these things are going to solve it – but it will help, and we have a responsibility in our own modest way as councillors on a local authority to help.
“That’s what we have here, and everyone is absolving themselves of any responsibility. Probably only the Cathaoirleach and Cllr [Anne) Devitt [Ind] can remember the last time there were so many social housing developments in a chief executive’s report.”
He added he was not partisan on the issue of homelessness, citing a Sinn Fein motion which he supported calling for more funding from Environment Minister Alan Kelly to provide more funding for social housing.
He concluded by saying that the 15% LPT cut was being voted for by certain councillors so they could “walk down Main Street like the big man or woman”.

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