Punishing Property Tax for Sligo householders

Fear for future of County Council

Sligo News File Online

Sligo homeowners look set to be hit with the highest rate in the country when councillors come to consider Local Property Tax rates later in the month.

Local Property TaxFamilies are likely to be told that the county council has no option but to force them to pay though the nose for what are essentially legacy debts of previous council decisions, including the massively costly proceedings in relation to the Lissadell Estate, which ended up in the Supreme Court

Currently, the council is understood to be indebted to the tune of about €125 million, this despite more than 300 staff cuts and the evident impact this is having in the provision of essential services to the county.

The council is also under pressure from the Department of the Environment to shed even more of its workforce, and sever a number of public facilities, among them library services.

At the same time, the department has ordered the council to present it with a financial plan showing how it proposes to handle its prevailing debt pile, and create an annual budget surplus.

Unusually, councillors recently met in a local hotel to consider the council finances, following which it’s believed they served a notice or letter on the CEO, Ciaran Hayes calling on the council executive to furnish the department with the demanded financial plan no later than this month.

There are now fears the county council could be abolished, and replaced with a government appointed Commissioner to carry out or direct the operations of the authority. It would mean that councillors would be removed, and the people left at the mercy of what the new regime would choose to impose on them in terms of new or increased taxes, levies, charges or fees.

Many will be waiting anxiously to see how councillors respond when they later meet to debate the Local Property Tax, otherwise known as the tax on the homes of families. This is a tax every household is legally obliged to pay whether or not they can afford to, and applies equally to the aged, the sick, and the disabled and other disadvantaged persons.

Collection of the tax, a mandatory imposition, was given to the revenue authorities empowered by the Fine Gael – Labour Coalition to forcibly deduct it from pensions, welfare allowances, wages or farm payments.

Introduction of the tax followed an agreement the last Fianna Fail led government signed the country up to with the Troika.

In 2014, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael members of the council voted down a proposal of Sinn Fein and Independent councillors that would have granted householders a 15% reduction in the tax.