Property tax cut would have hit services and cost Tipperary €1.8m, meeting told

There were arguments for and against when Tipperary County Council voted overwhelmingly last week to maintain the Local Property Tax rate at its current level.

There were arguments for and against when Tipperary County Council voted overwhelmingly last week to maintain the Local Property Tax rate at its current level.

All local authorities were given the choice by the Government to cut the tax by as much as 15 per cent.

A full rate cut would leave the council €1.836m short, councillors were told.

Council finance officer Liam McCarthy told councillors in Nenagh that services would suffer if the tax was reduced as the council was the second highest beneficiary from the new local goverment equalisation fund under which councils who have a surplus share funding with councils that can’t finance themselves.

Tipperary got €9.8m from the LPT with a further €12.96m coming through equalisation. Only Donegal got a higher amount.

Councillors were told that because of the make up of property valuations in the county, a 15 per cent cut would only amount to a maximum saving of 58 cent per week for some householders.

The decision not to cut the LPT was proposed by Cllr John Hogan who described it as a “no-brainer”.

He said 58 cent was not a lot to pay for fire services, housing repairs and temporary staff.

However, Cllr Martin Browne (Sinn Fein) said that 58 cent was a lot of money to the families he represented.

Cllr Seamus Hanafin, while agreeing with Cllr Seamus Morris that it was a pity the issue was being discussed before the council had next year’s allocation, said: “People say they want money spent on services”.

The breakdown of those for and against more or less broadly mirrored the political alliance on the council, with FG, FF and Labour in support of maintaining the status quo and Sinn Fein and some Independents seeking a reduction.

Cllr Hogan’s proposal was accepted by 29 votes to 10, with the five SF councillors - Seamus Morris, David Doran, Catherine Carey, David Dunne and Martin Browne, along with councillors Micheal Lowry, Jim Ryan, Pat English and Michael O’Meara voting against.

Cllr John Fahey was not present.

Sinn Fein’s David Dunne said: “I campaigned and promised I’d reduce the Local Property Tax.”

Clonmel Fianna Fail councillor Siobhan Ambrose told the meeting that being elected carried responsibilities and the fact that Tipperary was the second highest beneficiary of the equalisation fund “should ring alarm bells.

It means we don’t have sufficient funding. I don’t know why people promised to cut the rate if they were elected.”

She said it was not right to look for services if you don’t put your shoulder to the wheel and warned: “There is no fairy godmother or godfather coming forward with the shortfall.”

Fianna Fail’s Roger Kennedy, while supporting the proposal, said it was a pity the council had no discretion as he would prefer a waiver for those who can’t afford to pay.

Cllr Richie Molloy (Indpt) said: “Our hands are tied”.

“The populist thing would be to be against everything,” declared Tipp town Independent member Denis Leahy, “but I want to see roads, estates and staff maintained. People are not asking for a 58 cent decrease, they want an increase in services. The price of one cigarette is not going to make a difference to them.”

Cllr Michael Murphy (FG) said the alternative was to look at discretionary spending on roads, swimming pools, the arts and local festivals.

Cllr Eddie O’Meara (Indpt) said services had to be maintained.

County CEO Joe McGrath told the councillors that the council was “heavily reliant” on equalisation and a loss of €1.8m would impact on its budget.

“Now is not the time to run away from prudent management. We must steer the course,” he said.