The Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay campaign in Donegal has criticised Donegal County Council for joining what they called the government’s “scare campaign” to encourage the public to pay the controversial household charge.
In a statement issued yesterday, the council indicated that a shortfall in the amount of household charges collected in Donegal could lead to reduced spending for council services, and encouraged the public to pay the charge before the March 31st deadline to avoid penalties.
The statement came just days before a protest march Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay is planning for Letterkenny. The march is scheduled to start at the Tesco roundabout in Letterkenny at 3 pm, Saturday, March 24th, and continue to Market Square for a rally.
Francis McCafferty of Letterkenny, a member of the campaign steering committee, said that Minister Phil Hogan, TD, “is going to punish areas where there has been high resistance to the household charge” with the threatened cuts in funding to local authorities.
In their statement, the council explained that the county’s portion of the charge was estimated at about €8 million, if everyone eligible were to pay. The council explained that local authority income includes the Local Government Fund (LGF) general purpose grant allocation, which this year was €30.9 million, down 7.82 percent from last year.
“Minister Hogan’s recent indications that non-realisation of targeted collection figures for the household charge may result in council’s having to review their 2012 expenditure plans, could give rise to reductions in services that are funded through the LGF on an annual basis,” the council reported.
The government have “been using this as a stick to beat people with,” Mr. McCafferty said. “Basically if you don’t pay you’re responsible for cutbacks in your own area.” But he said revenue collected from the charge is going into a national pot, with no funding ringfenced for individual local authorities.
Thomas Pringle, independent TD for Donegal South West, will take part in Saturday’s march. He said the anticipated €30.9 million allocation to the council includes the sum the council is expected to collect through the charge. He said the government stated it expects to generate €160 million for local authorities through the charge, but has already cut local authority funding by €173 million.
“People have an opportunity to stand in solidarity with each other against the austerity programme the government is pursuing, and the way to do that is not to register and not to pay,” Deputy Pringle said.
Mr. McCafferty said the campaign wanted a big crowd in Letterkenny.
“We’re trying to get as many as possible to give the campaign one final boost in that last week, so people can see the campaign is real, they can see there are a lot of people out there who feel just like them and they can see there are a lot of people out there who are determined not to pay,” he said.
In another development, Sinn Féin Cllr. Jack Murray is bringing forward an emergency motion asking the council not to use the power given local authorities to require utility companies to supply information relevant to collection of the tax.
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