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Clare County Council CEO Pat Dowling. Photograph by John Kelly.

Higher rate of property tax retained for 2022

AN OVERWHELMING majority of members of Clare County Council have voted to leave the rate of Local Property Tax (LPT) for 2022 at 15% above the standard rate.

Councillors have the power to increase or decrease the LPT by up to 15 per cent each year from the basic rate, which is calculated based on the value of a property. On the recommendation of Council Chief Executive Pat Dowling, members voted this week to retain the higher rate, with the aim of raising an additional €1.5m for the local authority.

After a motion to leave the 15% hike in place was tabled by Councillor Pat Hayes and seconded by Councillor Joe Cooney, a bid to return to the standard rate was proposed by Councillor Gerry Flynn and seconded by Councillor Donna McGettigan. When put to the vote, 24 councillors were in favour of retaining the higher rate, two members were against and two were judged to be absent from the virtual meeting at the time of the ballot.

Outlining the issue at the outset of the discussion, Mr Dowling noted that members are due to adopt the annual budget in November and that there would be plenty of engagement in advance of that. With an August deadline for deciding on an adjustment to the LPT charge for next year, Mr Dowling urged members to retain the higher rate. “The extra €1.5m is significant in assisting with demand and the many unprecedented challenges faced recently,” he said. “This is critical to communities, not least because of the General Municipal Allocation (GMA) spending.”

Councillor McGettigan said she didn’t agree with the recommendation. “This is not progressive,” she asserted. “It doesn’t take account of someone’s ability to pay.”

Councillor Hayes then proposed keeping the LPT rate at 15% above the standard. “I’m not a fan of the LPT,” he said. “It was brought in to support local authorities, but over the years, it has become the funder of local authorities.” The Fianna Fáil member said his biggest concern was the Equalisation Fund, which makes provision for redistributing money generated through the LPT to counties who don’t have a big enough property tax base to fund their services. He noted the matter is being examined in the LPT Amendment Bill (2021). “Our national politicians will need to address this because we’re having to fund councils besides our own and that’s a very difficult scenario,” he said. He added that the challenge in the meantime is supporting services. “We would all like to reduce the LPT,” he said, “but we need to maximise the money that we can spend locally and that’s why I propose that we stay at the same rate as 2021.”

Councillor Gerry Flynn described the LPT as “a blunt instrument”. “We are extracting money from people under the guise of supporting services,” he said. The Shannon member said that he had supported the 15% increase previously with a view to funding additional services. “I am disappointed that the work I’d hoped for hasn’t been done,” he said. “My proposal is that we return to the standard rate. We raised €10m for Clare and gave €2m to other counties. I won’t support 15% on top of the standard rate.”

Councillor Cooney said he was very happy to second Councillor Hayes’s proposal.

Councillor Johnny Flynn said while previously he had staunchly objected to the 15% increase, he had come to see the benefits. “Fantastic work has been done on the back of the additional funds and a huge amount has been allocated to public amenities.”

When put to the vote, only Councillors Gerry Flynn and McGettigan voted against retaining the 15% premium. Councillors Paul Flynn and Ann Norton were absent from the meeting at the time of the vote.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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