Maman Poulet | Clucking away crookedly through media, politics and life

The household charge and local government in Ireland

March 21st, 2012 · 10 Comments · Irish Politics, Recession

In an effort to scare convince people to pay the household charge, politicians including Desperate Dan Phil are extolling the virtues of local government and local services and paying for them. There’s a whole lot of mentioning of  playgrounds and swimming pools in the last few days as if we were drowning in them.

This tactic of linking the payment to local facilities and democracy might work if successive governments had not run local government into the ground taking away powers and either running things from Dublin or giving powers to the unelected and unaccountable executive.  Of course before that it was the most corrupt arena in Irish politics. (cf Mahon/Moriarity tribunals)

Some government politicians are saying that that there has been reform from the current government – merging a few councils does not make for a vibrant local democracy. Not a word on reducing the number of councillors (we are very much over represented) or directly electing a mayor anywhere.

The ‘trick’ of removing funding for local government from the book of estimates and saying that the household charge is going to fund all these ‘important’ things won’t fool many. Neither will it wash when the government start saying that people have not paid their household charge so services have to be cut further.   And it does not reform local government or the mess that is local authority housing and regeneration, stop the closure of libraries, the absence of regulation of bin charges and private operators, the lack of local play and recreation facilities in many areas. It won’t stop TD’s interfering in local politics either or concentrate their minds on national issues.

I am in favour of a progressive property tax but what are the chances when it is finally introduced that the money will remain ring fenced to fund local amenities and administration?  The household charge is another example of this government introducing charges or cutting payments without reforming anything and in this case the continued neutering of local democracy.

Share

Tags: ··

10 Comments so far

  • oireachtas retort

    Very sceptical of the money staying. Nothing stopping Phil telling us circumstances have changed in two years, tough luck. This is the IMF’s work and they couldn’t give a toss about the ‘services we all rely on’. Even local authorities get every penny, who trusts them to spend it

    One of Phil’s first moves in office was scraping an inquiry into planning irregularities in Dublin, Cork, Carlow, Meath and Galway.

  • Keith

    In fairness, there has been mention of a directly elected Mayor. For Limerick rather than Dublin for some reason unknown to the world, but still..

    >It won’t stop TD’s interfering in local politics either or concentrate their minds on national issues.
    The only thing that’ll stop that is people voting for TDs who focus on the national rather than the local. The people, however, are very clear in their determination to have TDs who deal almost exclusively with local issues.

  • Open FM » Today’s Links

    […] The household charge and local government in Ireland In an effort to scare convince people to pay the household charge, politicians including Desperate Dan Phil are extolling the virtues of local government and local services and paying for them. There’s a whole lot of mentioning of  playgrounds and swimming pools in the last few days as if we were drowning in them. This […] […]

  • Frank

    I agree with the trust of your piece, but …
    “Not a word on reducing the number of councillors (we are very much over represented)”

    Have you a source for this? My own crawl of the net suggests we are under represented at local level compared to US and European norms. The UK is the only other country with such a low level of representation at local level.
    Main source http://www.ccre.org/docs/nuancier_2009_en.pdf

  • SeanR

    With a whopping majority, this government just disappoints at every turn… it’s ‘small things’ (in relative terms) like this charge that will undo it (rather like the poll tax effect on Thatcher).

  • Household Charge and the problem of unreformed and unaccountable local government « Slugger O'Toole

    […] Byrne has probably got one of the best unspun accounts of the problem: The ‘trick’ of removing funding for local government from the book of estimates and saying […]

  • Maman Poulet

    Frank we have 80 town and borough councils in Ireland – there is no need for this in addition to County Councils. I might think it’s ok for City Councils in addition to County for those of a certain size but why can’t county councillors from a certain area deal with matters on a area committee?

  • charles pearson

    Its just people’s hard earned money down a
    Black Hole.

  • Frank

    The average size in the EU for a local council is 49km2 with 5530 people. That is local democracy. With just county and city councils you are looking at an area of 2000km2 and 130,000 people. It’s too big.
    The norm seems to be a few big regions where the council has responsibility for regional policy, split that into sub regions (counties) with councils responsible for local policy, finally you have municipalities, who are responsible for running the small stuff, waste collection, lighting, upkeep of footpaths, tidy towns that sort of stuff.
    In some countries these municipality councils have some say over, policy, say planning, in their area, but would have to adhere to what is set out by county, regional and national policies.
    I’m in favour of giving people a much larger say in the day-to-day running of their own area.
    Another source I’ve found http://www.oireachtas.ie/parliament/media/housesoftheoireachtas/libraryresearch/spotlights/Financing-Local-Government-print.pdf

  • Brendan Harrington

    I own a house in Castletownbere West Cork. I do not live in it. I have never lived in it. It is inhabitable. It has no floors. no sanitation. Am I liable for for the household tax for this house. I have paid the tax for the house I live in even hough I dont own it.(Payment code HVAR9PB26Z2)