Battle lines drawn as Household Charge payment deadline looms

TDs and campaigners set for fight to win Galway public’s hearts and minds on issue

The deadline for the controversial €100 Household Charge falls on March 31, but it is understood that only 6,000 homes of more than 90,380 in County Galway have registered for the charge - a rate of 6.5 per cent with only three weeks left until the payment deadline.

The above figures come from the No Household Tax campaign as the stage is set for a major battle between the Government and the no campaign to either register and pay, or refuse to comply with the tax.

It is widely believed that as the deadline draws nearer there will be a rise in the number of compliances, but differing views exist as to how many will actually pay the charge.

“There will be a spike coming towards the end of March in the numbers of people who will pay,” says Conor Burke of No Household Tax, “but we are confident there will still be 80 to 85 per cent of households, nationally and in Galway, who will not have registered.”

However, Fine Gael Galway West TD feels the fact that the charge is law and the threat of penalties will see people pay the €100.

“People will pay it closer to the time as we have a habit in Ireland of leaving things to the last minute,” he says. “It is the law of the land, we have to pay it, and if not, penalties come in and the charge increases.”

Non-payment ould result in people coming before the courts, but anti-charge campaigners say this should not weaken people’s resolve.

“There is the possibility that some people will be made an example of,” said Mr Burke, “but anyone who is brought to court, we will be there with them to stand in solidarity and support and we will pack the courtrooms, we will be with them every step of the way. This is the first battle in the campaign and it puts the ball in the non-payment side’s court to put it up to the Government and we will.”

In order to encourage Galwegians to pay the Government must address questions regarding charges of unfairness and what the money from the charge will be used for.

“The money from the charge will go towards central funds just like any other tax,” said Mr Burke. “Considering that the Government hopes to raise €160 million from this and has cut €170 million from local services, it is clear it will be going to the bondholders.”

However, Dep Walsh said this is incorrect and that the money will go to the Galway city and county councils to fund local services. He acknowledged that the Government “has been very slow to provide and distribute information on how to pay the charge and what the money will be used for”.

The Galway City Council is also calling on the public to pay, saying that the proceeds will be used to pay the Exchequer contribution towards litter management and street cleaning, public lighting, fire and emergency services, libraries, and maintenance of parks, beaches, open spaces, and recreation facilities.

“It is in all our interests that as many people as possible pay the charge,” a spokesperson for City Hall said, “and pay by March 31 in order to avoid late payment penalties.”

A major concern to the public is that everyone has to pay €100 regardless of the value of their home. “This is a pre-cursor to a property tax that will address the element of unfairness in the charge of everyone having to pay €100 regardless of the value of their house,” said Dep Walsh.

However Mr Burke says this masks a bigger picture.

“Our main concern is about the forthcoming property tax,” he says. “There you are not talking about €100 but about €500-600 on top of water charges which will cost €400-500 a year. The €100 is just a foot in the door and this is why it must be defeated.”

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No Household Tax believes that if it can get to St Patrick’s Day with the majority of people not signed up for the charge it will force the Government to abandon the tax. The group will hold public meetings on the issue in Salthill and Ballinasloe this evening, both at 8pm, in Kinvara on Monday at 9pm, and in An Spidéal on Tuesday.

“The Government will up the propaganda campaign but we will be ready to combat that,” says Mr Burke. “We will continue to revitalising people’s spirits for the fight and by showing that with a majority of people on our side we can win.”

The Galway City Council is calling on people to pay at City Hall or through www.householdcharge.ie No Household Tax believes that if it can get to St Patrick’s Day with the majority of people not signed up for the charge it will force the Government to abandon the tax. The group will hold public meetings on the issue in Salthill and Ballinasloe this evening, both at 8pm, in Kinvara on Monday at 9pm, and in An Spidéal on Tuesday.

“The Government will up the propaganda campaign but we will be ready to combat that,” says Mr Burke. “We will continue to revitalising people’s spirits for the fight and by showing that with a majority of people on our side we can win.”

The Galway City Council is calling on people to pay at City Hall or through www.house holdcharge.ie

 

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