Monday, July 18, 2011

Minister to put household charge proposal to Cabinet - The Irish Times


THE MINISTER FOR the Environment is expected to bring proposals detailing his preferred method of collecting the household charge to Cabinet tomorrow week.

Householders are facing two new bills, with a household charge coming into operation from January 1st next and domestic water metering to follow.

Phil Hogan had been awaiting the results of a departmental spending review to determine the amount of the household charge, which the previous government had intended to set at €100 a year.

If that figure was levied on the State’s 1.8 million households, up to €180 million could be raised in a year, although it is believed a higher rate could allow greater numbers of people, such as those in receipt of social welfare, to be exempted from the charge.

“The Minister has put together proposals on how he intends the household charge will be applied in the way that’s as fair as possible for everyone,” Mr Hogan’s spokeswoman said.

Three more Cabinet meetings will take place before the summer recess. The household charge issue is not on the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting but is expected to be discussed at one of the two remaining meetings.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore yesterday said the structuring of the charge remained a subject for discussion by Cabinet. “It hasn’t come to the point of deciding what amount should be applied in the first place,” he said.

Mr Gilmore said “the idea of a household charge” was one of the options Mr Hogan was considering.

“He has not yet concluded his considerations on it and hasn’t yet brought proposals to Government on it,” he told RTÉ Radio 1’s This Week programme, “so we’re a bit ahead of how it actually would be structured. That’s a matter still for discussion.”

A Fianna Fáil spokesman said the charge should be based on people’s ability to contribute.

Commitments given in the EU- IMF bailout deal require property and water charges. However, site valuation arrangements required to implement the property tax are not sufficiently advanced, so the household charge is to serve as an interim measure.

Meanwhile, Mr Hogan’s spokeswoman said he intended to establish the promised new State-owned water utility company, Irish Water, by the autumn and would bring related proposals to Cabinet after the summer recess.

Labour Senator John Whelan suggested an existing agency be reconfigured to deal with water metering and mains management, instead of setting up an “expensive” new company.

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