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Ó Snodaigh: I will not pay household charge

14 December, 2011 - by Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD


Sinn Féin Social Protection spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has said he will not be paying the Household Charge.

Speaking in the Dáil this evening Deputy Ó Snodaigh said he will not be jumping on the bandwagon of the don’t pay campaign but is making a personal family decision in the full knowledge that he may face fines and the tax of €2,500.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“While it would be easy for me to jump on the “don’t pay” campaign bandwagon I am urging caution, that people should understand or be made aware of the possible full consequence of taking such a stance. I don’t want to see the situation which many in Dublin, in particular, are facing, as a result of weighing in behind the don’t pay the bin charges campaign. They were encouraged not to pay and are now facing in some cases nearly €2,000 in charges and the campaign has all but disappeared.

“If I take the decision not to pay, as I am going to, that is my personal, my family’s decision – taken in the knowledge that I may face fines and the tax of €2,500. I will stand with all others of like mind and will organise those who will take a similar stance.

“This tax is unfair and as our pre-budget alternative has shown not required and so should not be introduced.” ENDS

Full text of Deputy Ó Snodaigh’s contribution follows:

This Bill provides for the imposition of the first of a series of new ultra regressive taxes.

This flat tax of 100 euro we’ve been told by the Minister will be quickly followed by a property tax and water charges, both of which will be significantly higher.

A progressive tax regime links tax levels to ability to pay. This charge has no regard whatsoever to the question of ability to pay. Even the exemptions pay no heed to ability to pay. Just because someone is living in an old established housing estate doesn’t mean they are financially struggling any less than someone in a ghost estate.

The Minister is introducing the scabbiest waiver scheme ever! There are about 1.6 million households. Subtract social housing, the private rented sector and ghost estates which are exempted and you’re still left with about one million households. And the government are giving a waiver only to those social welfare recipients that are entitled to payment of the Mortgage Interest Supplement. That was just 18,000 households last year. Nearly half a million people are out of work. And the Budget last week announced changes that will see the payment of Mortgage Interest Supplement suspended for 12 months for many. So will there even be 18,000 waivers? This really is the scabbiest waiver scheme ever. 2/300,000 families are exclusively dependent on social welfare payment, many are not in local authority or rented accommodation.

There are hundreds of thousands of families, some entirely dependent on social welfare, who own their homes and are living in poverty but don’t get a waiver. For example many older people who are entirely dependent on the meagre state pension will not get a waiver. Many struggling families who are excluded from Mortgage Interest Supplement by the 30 hour rule, which you have not reformed despite promises in the Programme for Government, will not get a waiver.

By introducing provision for payments by increments the Minister is himself acknowledging that he is targeting people who do not have €100 available to them to pay this charge.

The extra €10 transaction charge for making the payment in cash is outrageous. And who is the government targeting with this extra charge? The poorest of home owners! According to an ESRI report published earlier this year, banking exclusion in Ireland is three times higher than the EU15 average. 20% of Irish households don’t have a bank account and this rises to 40% among those with low education qualifications, 38% in households in the bottom income quintile and 27% among those aged over 55 years. [Functionally/computer illiterate, no computer, fear]

While it would be easy for me to jump on the “don’t pay” campaign bandwagon I am urging caution, that people should understand or be made aware of the possible full consequence of taking such a stance. I don’t want to see the situation which many in Dublin, in particular, are facing, as a result of weighing in behind the don’t pay the bin charges campaign. They were encouraged not to pay and are now facing in some cases nearly €2,000 in charges and the campaign has all but disappeared.

If I take the decision not to pay, as I am going to, that is my personal, my family’s decision – taken in the knowledge that I may face fines and the tax of €2,500. I will stand with all others of like mind and will organise those who will take a similar stance.

This tax is unfair and as our pre-budget alternative has shown not required and so should not be introduced.

While the household charge won’t ‘break the bank’ for many in society, for thousands of others it will be the last straw. The fines also would cripple many of these families.

Remember it’s only a matter of time before these fines are deducted from people’s pay and social welfare cheques at source – legislation for that is in the pipeline.

The government intend to follow the household charge with water meters and charges. We know that greater savings would be made if the government tacked water waste from the distribution network rather than introducing household meters. International evidence suggests that households meters have to potential to reduce water use by 16% whereas according to the Comptroller and Auditor Generals report local authorities are losing more than 40% of water through the distribution network. But instead of investing where it counts and can give rise to the greatest savings the government are proposing to spend in the region of €1billion on meters. In the meantime the government are cutting spending on the vital remedial works by 12% so even more money will seep out through distribution network leaks. The Budget for water services investment has been cut by 60 million by this government. And this follows a legacy of underfunding in mains rehabilitation etc. Local Authorities and the Department of the Environment have been routinely failing to spend the money that’s allocated to them. For example in 2010 the Department failed to spend approximately 140 million of the money allocated for water investment.

The government had stated that they intend to borrow €500 million paying that back over a period of time at a cost of €1 billion. They are committing money for non-vital household meters yet they have not made available the 10 to 20 million required to secure the Vartry Tunnel which supplies about 20% of the water supply for the greater Dublin area and which could literally collapse at any moment! That is the level of regard this government has for the welfare of our citizens.

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