CLARE County Councillors have deferred a decision on a contentious proposed 15% cut on property tax for householders in the county until later this month, following legal advice.
Fianna Fáil Councillors Tom McNamara and Richard Nagle proposed the council should take a decision to implement this cut at a meeting on Monday evening to give a much needed break to Clare people who are being crippled by austerity tax hikes.
However, chief executive officer, Tom Coughlan informed members the authority had obtained legal advice that it couldn’t take a decision at the meeting.
Councillor James Breen (Ind) asked Mr Coughlan if councillors decided at the meeting to vary the rate of property tax, would he implement this decision.
Mr Coughlan replied he had a legal duty to implement any decision taken by councillors, once it was taken in accordance with the law.
However, he stressed he couldn’t implement any decision taken at last Monday’s meeting because it wouldn’t meet legal requirements.
Instead, he pledged the matter would be discussed with members of the corporate policy group before it would be put forward for discussion at a special meeting later this month, possibly on September 30 as the Revenue Commisioners have to be informed about the council’s decision before the end of the month.
Clare County Council is one of the local authorities that has the discretion to reduce the property tax by 15 next year.
However, a number of councillors claimed it seemed as if the council will not incur any net benefit from the total property tax yield in the county as over €2 million will be taken from the authority and redistributed back into a national equalisation fund.
Councillor Richard Nagle claimed another €3.5 million would be taken off of the council’s funding for roads and housing by the government.
Councillor Tom McNamara said it was “disgraceful” that Clare people who paid their property tax would now be effectively subsidising people in Limerick and North Tipperary where commercial rates were reduced for ratepayers for years when Clare County Council was told it couldn’t reduce its own rates if it wanted to maintain services due to cutbacks in national funding.
Stressing the need to maintain council services, Councillor Joe Cooney, (FG) said councillors would make a decision when they received a report on what funds were available to the council this year from its finance officer, Niall Barrett.
Despite efforts made by Councillor Tom McNamara for the council to state its intention as to whether it was prepare to reduce the rates, no vote was taken and a final decision was deferred to a future meeting.