Fianna Fáil Councillor Peter Keane has demanded clarity from the Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan on the liability for property taxes on local authority housing.

Cllr Keane said that Council has been unable to get any answers from the Minister after he rejected expert advice to exempt local authority homes from the property tax.  Under the new legislation, local authorities will be expected to absorb the property taxes on local authority housing in their area or pass the cost onto tenants.

“We estimate that it would cost Galway City Council €189,000 next year to absorb the property tax on over 2,000 local authority homes in this city.  We passed our budget for next year last week without making any provision for this.  There was little or no notice about this, and we have been unable to get any answers from the Minister or his Department about how this charge should be administered,” said Cllr. Keane.

“Who exactly does Minister Hogan expect to pay for this? The Council was already being hit with funding cuts because of the household charge fiasco, and there is no way we can afford to absorb this cost next year while maintaining all other services. On the other hand, rents on local authority homes are based on ability to pay.  So how can these families, who are already in difficulty, be expected to afford sudden and significant rent increases?

“This is why Thornhill report on property tax recommended that local authority housing be exempt.  The fact that the Government ignored this advice, after sitting on the report for 8 months, means that the gravity of this situation has not yet dawned on many people.  There has been no consultation, no thorough impact assessment and no time for proper debate on this issue.  I have spoken to many council colleagues in other parts of the country who had no idea that this was coming down the line.

“The Environment Minister Phil Hogan made no effort to consult Galway City Council and other local authorities about this.  We had no communication about this and we are struggling to get any answers now.  I am wondering was there any proper examination at all about this, or was the Government just hoping no one would notice as they continue to suppress debate on the issue?

“Minister Hogan needs to come out and explain how he expects our Council, or the local authority tenants in Galway, to pay this property tax.”