Cork City Cllr Seán Martin has accused the Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan of abandoning local councils as many face huge liabilities in Property Tax and loan repayments.

Cllr Martin was speaking as Cork City Council faces liabilities of over €3 million before the council budget 2014 discussions get underway.

“The Property Tax was sold to the people on the premise that the money collected would go towards local services. People paid the tax in good faith, believing that the money would be spent on upgrading roads, street lighting and libraries, for example. Cork City Council will have to pay €400,000 this year and €800,000 for next year in Property Tax with no benefit for local communities. On top of that, Cork City Council was fined €400,000 last year for not having an 80% compliance rate with the Property Tax by a certain date even though the rate was eventually brought up to that figure.

“This money has now gone to central Government, while incredibly local authorities have had their Government grant cut again. In fact, Cork City Council was promised aid from central Government to help pay the Property Tax on the city’s housing stock, this has also turned out to be another broken promise.

“Loan repayments on land that was purchased by Cork City Council with the consent of the central Government are now falling due sooner as well. This is costing Cork City Council almost €2 million next year alone. In previous years central Government would have paid the capital and loan repayments, this has now also stopped.

“Councils are at breaking point, this year’s budget will be our toughest yet and we have received no support from Minister Hogan. It seems to be part of an overall policy being employed by the Minister to dismantle local Government. We have already seen 80 town councils abolished while other councils have been amalgamated. The Minster has also stripped away power and services from councils.

“I am calling on the Government and Minister Hogan to exempt all local authorities from paying the Property Tax until 2015, when local authorities will be able to collect the tax themselves. This will go some way towards easing the huge burden on local authorities as they face hugely difficult budget decisions.”