There will be no increase in the Local Property Tax (LPT ) rate for Westmeath householders in 2022 it has been confirmed.
The majority of elected public representatives in attendance at the monthly meeting of the county council voted to maintain the present rate applicable citing the potential financial impact upon households as the community remains in the midst of a pandemic.
Speaking to the Athlone Advertiser this week, Cllr Aengus O'Rourke, Deputy Mayor, Athlone-Moate Municipal District, noted that the right outcome was achieved as householders, bearing the current impact of a pandemic, could not be expected to take a further financial burden at this time.
First of all, let’s be clear there isn’t a CEO or Finance director of a county council in provincial Ireland that is not proposing a full 15% increase to the LPT, it’s a natural default position, if I was in their shoes, I’d be doing the same because it’s their job. The more money available the better.
"How is it, that as a local authority, we have always survived financially without increasing the LPT by 15 percent in the past with the exception of last year which I utterly opposed and totally stand over today.
"Why is it that we are been asked to increase taxes when the government and leading economists are telling us (for the past 18 months ) that now is not the right time, our economy is too fragile – we need to stimulate not increase taxes. Does the executive disagree with the Government?
"Jobs are being lost, entire industries are closing, we are still gripped by uncertainty, economically and otherwise.
"For me, this is a blind budgeting decision we are being asked to take again. We are four months away from our ‘real’ budget and here we are trying to guess what it might take to achieve a balanced budget. It’s like playing darts in the dark - not one person in their right mind would do it.
"It is simply wrong to implement an increase to the LPT for 2022 for numerous reasons.
"Our offices have been closed to the public longer than any other public service body in the country and they remain closed and there is no plan to reopen them, this is simply not good enough.
"As a council, our delivery over the past year on day-to-day projects and schemes is behind. Between Covid-19 and the all-consuming roads programme we have been left with no capacity for our day to day schedule of works.
"So, despite the €1m extra received in LPT for 2021, I have experienced a lot of false starts and in fact in my opinion is that householders would be justified in seeking a rebate for their property tax for 2021, in a similar way that the VHI and insurance companies rebated its customers for the long periods of interrupted service.
"The revaluation process will result in some confusion with individuals and there will also be increases in personal liability as a result. So, is anyone seriously suggesting we heap more financial pain on these people?
Challenging the local authority executive who mooted a further LPT increase, Cllr O'Rourke stated that he had "every faith" in a budget for 2022 being produced by the collective members without the need for such a rate rise.
"I have every faith in the executive together with the members working collectively to achieve a balanced budget for 2022 without increasing the LPT.
Let’s work with the executive in November to make sure the important headline items are funded. Let’s root out any waste.
"The pandemic has shown us that there are ways to make savings and when we have the outcome figures for 2021 we can better plan and adapt for 2022.
"Let’s challenge government to ensure we receive the support necessary. In fairness, the government came good for us in the past year like I predicted they would. We have two ministers in our constituency, that has to account for something if required.
"The easy option is to increase the LPT, let's challenge ourselves and the executive instead of taking the easy option, the public expect that of us," Cllr O'Rourke asserted.