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Household charge will bankrupt local authorities – Stanley

13 December, 2011 - by Brian Stanley TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment, Community & Local Government, Brian Stanley TD, has this evening warned that the controversial household charge will bankrupt many local authorities.

Deputy Stanley said councils are struggling to fund their services with reduced commercial rates and now the government has cut their funding by 84%, forcing ordinary households to pick up the tab.

Speaking during the debate on the household charges in the Dáil this evening Stanley said:

“Sinn Féin believes in local government. We believe in strong, democratic, accountable, local government. But this bill would be more appropriately entitled the Bank Bailout Bill. The bill has little to do with raising finance for local authorities and more to do with bailing out the banks and compensating bondholders. Money is being diverted form council services to the German banks.

“Councils are struggling to fund their services, in recent years councils, under pressure from the commercial sector, have had to reduce commercial rates. This naturally has a negative effect on fund raised. In fact here in Dublin the largest local authority in the country has been forced to sell off its domestic waste collection service. This is despite having no legislation to regulate this industry or to protect the public form unscrupulous waste collection companies.

“The sale was done so Dublin City Council could raise the money to keep functioning. This unilateral decision was made by Management despite the democratic wishes of the elected councillors. In fact three times a majority of Dublin City Councillors supported a Sinn Féin motion opposing the sell-off of this essential service. Ironically the motion received support from Labour party councillors. Yet here in this house the Labour party in government is involved in an unprecedented attack on local government.

“There is no attempt to conceal the government’s contempt for ordinary people, nowhere in the bill does it allow for waivers for those on social welfare. Last Tuesday this heartless government cut €88 off disability allowance, reduced people's fuel allowance and this week it expects people to pay an extra €100 for local services. The bill will then attempt to criminalise you for not being able to pay. The bill states if you cannot afford the household charge, you will be brought to court and if found guilty you will have to pay court costs for the local authority that brought you to court.

“Now people are being asked to dig deeper and pay extra for the same services they have been receiving. In people’s minds this doesn’t add up. People know when they are being taken for a ride. Sinn Féin will campaign every step of the way to have this regressive charge overturned.

“We will use every opportunity during the debate this week and into next year to ensure this charge is reduced to the dustbin of history. People will simply not pay. The household charge will not be paid by people because they cannot afford it and because it is an unjust charge that should be withdrawn before it brings this government into conflict with our communities.

“People have already made their minds up. This is a line in the sand which they will not cross. Households will not be paying this charge. And the government can make every threat they want in this bill. They can threaten court, fines and court costs, people won’t be paying. Yet the government is depending on 100% payment rate to compensate for the cut of 84% to local government.”

In conclusion Deputy Stanley said, “At best this bill is ill thought out and a blunt instrument to punish households again. At worst it is an attempt to use the current economic crisis as a smoke screen to further bury local democracy in this state. Either way Sinn Féin will lead the charge in opposing it.” ENDS

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