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As part of their successful election campaign in 1977, Fianna Fáil promised to abolish the rates levied on households. As a majority government, they did so. Household rates had funded local government services, inclusive of mains water and refuse collection, since the foundation of the State.
This decision was retrograde. Investment in water systems suffered. In 2013, the then government re-introduced the household rates system, under the guise of the local property tax (LPT).
LPT is a more enhanced and efficient revenue-raising system than rates. It is administrated by the Revenue and ensures a regular income, year-to-year. The tax increased by 5% from 2014 to 2015. This increase was sanctioned by the county councillors, rather than central government. I assume it was to cover wage and cost increases.
The LPT can be increased/reduced each year, depending on how the county councilors vote, based on budget forecasts. LPT is used for the upkeep of lighting, street-cleaning, emergency services (even though service charges for fire brigade/ambulances also apply), parks, etc, as far as I know, though I did not find any mention of water services or refuse collection.
Surely, LPT revenues should be used to update our water system, as in the old rates system. Central government should show how the LPT revenues are distributed and used.
This transparency should be extended to motor-tax revenues, considering the transfer of funding from both the LPT and motor tax to Irish Water for set-up costs. So, why cannot LPT revenues be used to create an efficient water service? LPT revenues are substantial, and assured on a year-in, year-out basis, thus borrowings to fund work required for water-system modernisation should not pose any great problems. Perhaps the vested interests will not allow our political masters to provide transparency, as accountability would then arise.
Surely, with all the rhetoric flying around Leinster House about a ‘new way of doing politics’, the formation of a minority government will lead to an era of tax-take transparency and openness, with regards to the Irish public needing to know what, where, and how we are funding the State. Somehow, I don’t think I’ll hold my breath.
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