Fianna Fáil has called for an extension on the Household Charge deadline in light of serious inadequacies with legislation, the lack of a proper information campaign and inequalities with payment procedures.
The party’s Environment Spokesperson Niall Collins commented, “The Government has made a mess of this from the beginning. The Environment Minister Phil Hogan has been so distracted by rushing through his controversial legislation and scaring people into paying it by the end of March that he has completely abandoned all sense of fairness and procedure.
“With 11 days to go until the charge must be paid, problems are still emerging with the legislation. The latest comes in the form of a reply to a Parliamentary Question from Fianna Fáil, confirming a blunder in the wording for exemptions applying to State-owned properties. The result is that Government Ministers can technically avoid paying the charge on their own homes. Last week, the High Court allowed a challenge to the household charge based on the fact that the legislation wasn’t published in Irish. There were also initial problems with some local authorities mistakenly charging an extra 10% to anyone who paid the charge directly in their local authority office.
“This entire campaign has based on paying the charge online, which has alienated thousands of older people and others who do not have internet access. People cannot understand why they have been unable to pay at their local post office along with their utility bills, but the Government has failed to involve An Post in the process. They chose not to use An Post to deliver information leaflets, even though this would have guaranteed close to 100% delivery. Instead with 11 days until the deadline, the majority of homes still haven’t received their information leaflet.
“We are now faced with a deadline that is no longer tenable. It is time for Minister Hogan to put his hands up and admit that this has not been executed in the right way. He must extend the deadline while legal problems are addressed. He must also put aside his campaign based on fear, and instead employ a proper information campaign allowing people to pay in a variety of ways, including at their local post office. Fianna Fáil is also appealing to consider households’ ability to pay and introduce a number of exemptions for more vulnerable households.”