Nonsense from Labour on Property Tax

Minister Eamonn Gilmore recently announced that Labour will cut the property tax by 15%.  In so doing he spectacularly misses the point. The power to vary property tax rates will be a local power, to be exercised by Councillors carrying out their statutory duty to bring in an annual balanced budget for their City or County. Eamonn Gilmore is a Minister. He makes national policy, and he has announced this as a national Labour policy.

 

Local Tax – Local Budget

From 2015, 80% of the tax collected in a Council area will be kept by that Council, and will be used by that Council to fund the provision of services to its residents and businesses. And from 2015, the Councillors will be able to vote as a Council to vary (up or down) the amount of property tax to be collected from home owners in their local council area. And each Council will decide this based on its ability to cut its costs without withdrawing necessary services.

The cry of no taxation without representation fueled a revolution in the 18th Century; local government in Ireland was for long reduced to representation without taxation powers. For once, the two are aligning, so that residents will vote in their Councillors and will also pay property tax to them, so that they will then have the power to vote them in or out according to how they spend the home-owner’s property tax money.

 

Local Conditions

If that power is to be exercised wisely, the Councillors in each local Council will act independently and autonomously at a local level, weighing up the pros and cons of cutting the local tax while discussing with those they represent the need for local services.

I am running for election in Dublin on the basis that I will be seeking to cut the burden on house owners in Dublin City Council’s area, just as Fine Gael have managed to cut commercial rates in the city for the last five consecutive years while still balancing the books. I can’t tell you whether Leitrim or Sligo County Councils will be able to raise or lower their property tax rates, and I hope that they won’t be trying to tell us in Dublin.

The level of taxation should depend on local conditions, local services and local property prices. This is maybe the only good thing to be said about the property tax.

 

Nonsense

And Minister Gilmore’s announcement makes a nonsense of this. If a Minister thinks this can be brought in as a national policy, he is either not thinking this through or he is coming out with cheap policies based on lazy soundbites.

Adopting a national party position on local budgets and local taxes shows a serious disregard for local government, local representation and local decision-making. Maybe this is what happens in the run up to local elections, but the public should see it for what it is: nonsense on a national level.

 

 

Cllr. Kieran Binchy and Eoghan Murphy TD discussing the improvement works in Herbert Park, Dublin 4.

Cllr. Kieran Binchy and Eoghan Murphy TD discussing the improvement works in Herbert Park, Dublin 4.