Fianna Fáil has demanded immediate intervention from Environment Minister Phil Hogan to ensure that tens of thousands of people who have paid the household charge are not hit with false penalties and charges.

The party’s environment spokesperson Barry Cowen has expressed alarm over the latest twist in the household charge saga, which has seen thousands of warning letters mistakenly sent to householders who have already paid the charge.

“The roll out and collection of the household charge has been a complete fiasco from the very beginning,” said Deputy Cowen.  “And just when you think the maximum amount of confusion, chaos and distress has been caused, the fiasco is brought to an entirely new level.

“As if it wasn’t enough to threaten households who haven’t paid the charge and to penalise local authorities with budget cuts based on collection figures, we now have a situation where thousands of householders who did pay are threatened with fees and charges.

“People are now wondering how can this have happened?  The failure by Minister Hogan to plan a fair household charge system allowing people enough time to pay in a variety of ways, and to communicate properly with the public and local authorities, has meant that this system has been riddled with difficulties from the beginning.   

“This latest revelations raise additional concerns that budget cuts imposed on local authorities due to non-collection of the household charge may be inaccurate.  The Local Authority Management Agency which issued the letters in error last week is the same agency that has collated the figures on household charge payment. Minister Hogan must clarify immediately that the figures of successful household collection are correct, and the budget cuts he has imposed on councils around the country are not based on false assumptions of non-collection of the charge.

 “Minister Hogan must take personal responsibility to clean up this mess as a matter of urgency.  Those householders who have mistakenly received warning letters threatening penalties deserve an explanation from the Minister today and a guarantee that they will not be left out of pocket because of the Minister’s mistakes.”