Confusion over whether property tax will benefit Westmeath

There is no way of telling yet what percentage of the Local Property Tax paid in Westmeath will go to fund services within the county.

Councillors at last week’s Athlone Area meeting were baffled to hear that council executives have no idea how the charges collected in the county will be distributed next year.

The Local Property Tax collected in Westmeath this year amounts to €6.2 million. Under the current system, Westmeath County Council and Athlone Town Council received a combined €17.2 million in 2013 under the General Purpose Grant, the contribution made by the Government to the council’s activities.

Director of services Hugh O’Reilly said that while he understood that the Minister intends to continue to operate a system of General Purpose Grants for 2014, he had “no indication at this stage of the level of this grant for 2014”.

And while he reminded councillors that Government policy is that the Local Property Tax will go to local authorities, he added “at this stage we don’t know how much we will be getting for 2014, and we won’t know until the Budget”.

This was in response to a query from Cllr Tom Allen, who said people who had paid the Local Property Tax were frustrated that they were not seeing the fruits of their contribution.

“People are saying ‘I have paid and look at my footpath or road’ - are we going to be better or worse off? If the council doesn’t know how much we are getting or where the money is going, it’s a confusing issue. I know we don’t have funding, but the people paying the charge feel they should be getting things done now that they have paid,” he said.

Cllr Frankie Keena added that the property tax “was marketed as being for the locality and to be spent in the area”.

Cllr Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran also called for clarity, saying “People are fighting with us over it, and we don’t have the answers”.

 

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