The Sinn Féin Lord Mayor of Cork broke ranks with his party last night to vote for a 10% cut in the city’s property tax.
The decision will mean the council will have to find €535,000 to balance its draft 2016 budget, which had factored in no change in the 2016 Local Property Tax (LPT) rate.
The vote to cut the rate for the second year in a row was passed after Lord Mayor Chris O’Leary, whose party had been seeking the maximum 15% reduction, voted with Fianna Fáil and several independents for a 10% cut.
So here's a summary of the parties' position on the LPT rate. FG 10% increase, FF 10% decrease, SF & AAA 15% decrease. Indps vary #corkcc— Eoin English (@EoinBearla) September 29, 2015
Anti-Austerity Alliance councillor Mick Barry said it is not often that you see a split in the Sinn Féin ranks.
“I think a lot of people will be disappointed that Chris O’Leary refused to back the maximum 15% cut,” he said.
“Sinn Féin have promised to abolish the property tax if elected to government. Let’s hope their TDs in the next Dáil take a firmer line than Cllr O’Leary did tonight.”
The vote followed warnings from city management that a maximum 15% cut would cost the city €1.6m.
AAA Cllr Mick Barry says they are supporting a maximum possible 15% cut in the LPT - an 'unjust austerity tax' on the family home #corkcc— Eoin English (@EoinBearla) September 29, 2015
In a detailed report to councillors, council CEO Ann Doherty urged leaving the basic rate unchanged. It is budgeted to bring in some €8.5m next year.
Officials said a 10% cut would mean they would have to find just over €535,000 to prepare another balanced version of the draft 2016 budget.
Ms Doherty’s report showed that of the 51,500 city properties liable for LPT, 13,390 are valued at under €100,000, which includes 8,685 social housing units owned by the city council.
Some 40,685 are valued at under €200,000 with 10,815 valued over this amount.
This means that 79% of all LPT liable properties in Cork would benefit by between 26c and 91c per week from a 15% reduction in the LPT, she said.
She said the general economic climate and state of the national finances continues to impact on the city council and that many of its income sources continue to be under severe pressure, while increased demand for services in many areas further exacerbates the pressure on the city’s finances.
But Sinn Féin councillor Henry Cremin said his party wanted a full 15% cut to give something back to people who had been hit by a slew of stealth taxes and charges in recent years.
“While it may not seem like a lot, whether it be €105 a year or €500 a year, the fact is that there are people out there living on the breadline and anything we can give back, we should proceed like that,” he said.
Fianna Fáil councillor Terry Shannon said a 10% reduction was the most responsible thing to do. His party colleague, Seán Martin, slated the Government for not funding local authorities properly.
It also emerged last night that just one person responded to the council’s invitation for submissions ahead of last night’s variation vote.
Representing 0.00000833% of the city’s 120,000-strong population, the unidentified person argued for a 15% reduction in the rate.
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