Council under fire as household tax demands sent to deceased

Cork County Council has been left with “egg on its face” following a cock-up which resulted in notices about the household tax being addressed to people who are deceased.

Scores of homeowners, who had already paid, also received written demands.

Furious councillors said the local authority should not have put its name to a letter which was only to be circulated to the 37% of the county’s 140,000 households that had not pad the original €100 charge.

Standing orders were suspended at yesterday’s local authority meeting at the request of Fianna Fáil’s Alan Coleman.

He said the inaccurate database used for sending out the letters had been supplied by the Dublin-based Household Bureau. But Cork County Council’s logo, he said, was on it and thus “the council was left with egg on its face”.

Cllr John Mulvihill said he had spoken to a man whose wife was sent one of the letters, even though she died 15 years ago.

The Labour councillor said he could understand the family’s hurt as a letter came addressed to his wife two years ago from the HSE for a breast check appointment — 23 years after she died from cancer.

Cllr Kevin Murphy (FG) said: “It’s very insensitive to the deceased and those who have paid the charge. We’re getting the stick for it. We have to be much more careful in future.”

Cllr Gerry Kelly (FG) and a number of other councillors, who had also paid the charge, received demands.

“People who have already paid and got these letters are livid,” said Cllr Andrias Moynihan (FF).

Cllr Pat Burton (FG) said he’d been contacted by a constituent who had received two letters and had also paid up. “We should change the wording on any future letters to acknowledge that somebody may have paid. We should also apologise for sending them to the deceased.”

Cllr Dermot Sheehan (FG) said he knew from constituents that a number demands were sent addressed to their deceased relatives. “Where are they (Household Bureau) getting the names? Is it from the 1901 census? It’s been a total PR cock-up.”

Cllr Dan Joe Fitzgerald (FF) said: “I got two bills and I’d paid. One of my staff got a bill in her maiden name and she is nearly 30 years married.”

He said the council was “getting an extremely bad name.”

Cllr Declan Hurley (Ind) said Environment Minister Phil Hogan should issue an apology for the debacle and his sentiments were echoed by Cllr Donal O’Rourke (FF).

County manager Martin Riordan “regretted” people were getting letters that upset them. However, he said the demand did contain the words that people “may be liable” and that it “may have been sent in error”.

Cllr Coleman claimed the manager “was defending the indefensible”.

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