All homeowners must register for the €100 household charge by next Saturday even if they are not liable for it or live in an exempt property.
Failure to do so will constitute a criminal offence and attract a fine of up to €2,500 on conviction.
Any householder who is liable for the charge and continues to refuse to pay could end up in jail on foot of a court order.
Staff of local authorities, meanwhile, have been warned that they will face disciplinary action if they refuse to call door-to-door to remind people that they have to pay the charge.
Mick O’Reilly of the Dublin Council of Trade Unions has described as “outrageous” the order to councils given by Environment Minister Phil Hogan to create “household charge collection teams” and begin targeting offenders next week.
He said that those who refuse to carry out these instructions on the grounds of conscience should be fully supported by the trade union movement.
However, Paul McSweeney, chief executive of the Local Government Management Agency, the body responsible for collecting the charge, said that council workers who are directed to do so will have to carry out the task as instructed.
Nearly 80% of households have still to pay the charge and almost 9,000 families an hour will have to register to pay if Saturday’s deadline is to be met.
According to Mr McSweeney, the rate of payment has increased hugely in the past few days. “We have had a small hill of post that has now turned in to a small mountain,” he told the Pat Kenny show on RTÉ Radio 1 yesterday.
He also warned that the agency would be using data from a variety of sources, such as the Revenue Commissioners, Land Registry and utility companies, to identify those liable for the charge.
Mr McSweeney said: “The household charge is not going to go away and if someone doesn’t pay, we are going to come looking for it.”
In a statement yesterday, Cork County Manager Martin Riordan urged households to avoid penalty charges.
“I am asking that householders across the county consider the importance of the services we provide and comply with the law and pay their charge on time,” he said.
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