Higgins: Household Charge threat would discriminate against poorer areas

Government threats to withdraw public services where the Household Charge is not paid are an outrageous attack on the poor, it has been claimed.

Socialist TD Joe Higgins warned the Fine Gael-Labour coalition will not get away with plans to allocate funds to local authorities depending on how much money each took in from the €100 levy.

"If they go along these lines they will be encouraging massive social dislocation and further social inequality. It will simply not be permissible," said Mr Higgins.

"There will be an outcry, an upheaval against that. It will be outrageous."

Environment Minister Phil Hogan hinted over the weekend that he would reward authorities that pulled out all the stops to collect outstanding registration payments.

Mr Higgins said poor areas will suffer further as a result.

"The wealthiest areas in the country will get more resources than they have already, while the poorest will continue to go without. It's irresponsible," he went on.

"This would cause a further gap in the massive inequality that already exists. It would be socially destructive."

The Dublin West TD, who has led a campaign against the Household Charge along with eight other TDs from the Technical Group, also accused the Government of continuing to manipulate registration figures to save face.

The Government has said all along it hopes to raise around €160m from the charge - money that will fund public services, including libraries, parks and pathways.

The Department of Environment said more than 800,000 households had registered last night, which it claimed surpassed the half-way mark based on 1.6 million householders eligible to register.

But Mr Higgins argued that 1.8 million are actually required to register and 1.75 million required to pay, which means that only 45% have actually registered and not half.

His figures come from NUI Maynooth academic Professor Rob Kitchin who made the calculations based on Central Statistics Office data released last week.

According to the official numbers, from the 2011 census, there are 2,004,000 dwellings in Ireland.

Some 129,000 are eligible for the Household Charge waiver because they council rented stock and a further 53,000 are exempt for the charge because they are in ghost estates or receiving mortgage interest relief.

This leaves an estimated 1.8 million households that are eligible to register.

"Saying it has passed the half-way mark is just another example of Government spin," said Mr Higgins.

"The Government is all over the place with this shambolic charge. If you go by the real figures, 55% have not paid the charge."

He added that the Government is clearly out of touch with the public.

"It has misread the mood and doesn't understand how deeply opposed to these new austerity measures people are."

He warned that the campaign against the household charge will intensify over the next two months to demand that the levy is withdrawn.

"We will have another round of public meetings and debates to finally bring this to bear on the Government," Mr Higgins added.


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