Council backs down on domestic ‘rates’ proposal

MEMBERS of Kerry County Council distanced themselves from a proposal that could have been seen as an attempt to reintroduce domestic rates “through the back door”.

In a submission to a national group looking at ways of funding local government, senior council management included a proposal for an annual €200 levy on households.

However, it was decided to withdraw the levy proposal, which would have provided “quality of life” amenities.

The issue was first raised at last week’s council meeting, but only 10 councillors were present and it went through without discussion, or opposition.

At the start of yesterday’s meeting, Fine Gael councillor Pat McCarthy said public reaction to the levy was that it would be a non-runner.

“If it comes back in here before the council, the majority will vote against it. People won’t pay it,” he said.

Council finance director John O’Connor said the levy was only one of eight, or nine proposals submitted to the Commission on Taxation, which would determine the future financing of local authorities.

Kerry mayor Michael Healy-Rae claimed a “certain slant” had been put on the story. But, he emphasised, no new charges would be introduced in Kerry without first being agreed and voted on by the council.

Fianna Fáil councillor John Brassil said FF members were not present when the issue arose at last week’s meeting, as they had been attending a party meeting.

Sinn Féin councillor Robert Beasley, who was present when the matter first arose, said SF, or any other parties present, had no intention of supporting it.

According to council officials, money raised would be ring-fenced locally for improvements in recreational and cultural facilities, community centres, libraries, parks and playgrounds.

If such a levy were introduced on 40,000 households in Kerry, it would yield €8 million.

In the absence of any other source of funding, officials said a case existed for a new scheme funded by local householders.

Mayor Healy-Rae, meanwhile, confirmed the levy proposal was being withdrawn.


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