The Household Charge – Don’t think that Shinnerism will pay your bill. It won’t!

As of Friday 24 August, over 1 million households have registered for
payment of the household charge. In addition, almost 6,000 postal
applications have been received in the household charge bureau, which
have yet to be processed. This equates to a compliance rate nationally
of circa 63%.

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil
Hogan thanks all homeowners who have already registered and paid the
household charge for their vital contribution to the maintenance of
essential local services in their communities, such as street
cleaning, library services, street lighting, parks and recreation
facilities. Minister Hogan urges all households with an outstanding
liability to pay the charge to do so at the earliest opportunity. The
Minister appreciates that even at a relatively modest €100, the charge
is not welcome, especially by those in difficult circumstances.
However, the Household Charge has been introduced out of necessity:
the necessity to ensure that local authority services are funded in a
sustainable manner; the necessity to close the gap in income and
expenditure in the national finances; and, ultimately, the necessity
to ensure that we meet our obligations under the EU/IMF Programme of
Financial Support for Ireland. The Household Charge is an interim
measure and it will be replaced by a full valuation-based property tax
in due course. Internationally, it is the practice that local
services are administered by local authorities and financed by a local
property based tax.

General purpose grant allocations notified to local authorities from
the Local Government Fund (LGF) in 2012 were based on an anticipated
yield from the Household Charge of €160 million nationally. The onus
is on local authorities to collect the household charge and to pursue
non-compliant households. The Local Government Management Agency
(LGMA) are providing local authorities with data-sets (through
data-sharing protocols) taken from databases such as the Non-Principal
Private Residence Charge (NPPR), Property Registration Authority
(PRA), Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB), ESB Networks and
other Government Departments (Social Protection, Revenue). These
data-sets are being used to identify households that may be liable to
pay the household charge. Reminder letters have so far issued to over
100,000 households across the country that have yet to pay the charge.
Local authorities are also using local knowledge to identify
households that have an outstanding liability.

Households continue to be able to pay the charge on-line, in local
authority offices (some 111 separate offices across the country) and
by post (by cheque, postal order, credit or debit card) to the
Household Charge Bureau. Such payments now incur late payment
penalties.

Unfortunately, there are some local authority areas where the
collection rates for the household charge are well below the national
average and this is having an adverse impact on the anticipated yield.
In this regard, the Department of the Environment, Community and Local
Government issued a circular to all local authorities last July in
respect of third quarter 2012 payment of general purpose grants from
the LGF. The circular alerted local authorities that the Department
would be forced to withhold payments from the third quarter if the
yield from the household charge did not improve. The circular does not
therefore refer to cuts but rather stresses that local authorities can
progressively recoup their original general purpose grant allocation
through improved household charge compliance. The final amount of
general-purpose grants available for 2012 will be reviewed in the
final quarter of the year to take account of the financial position of
local authorities at that point, as well as progress on securing an
increased household charge yield.

It is important to reiterate that payments of the household charge are
paid to the LGF, which in turn is used exclusively to fund essential
local services. Non-payment therefore has very real consequences in
terms of the knock-on effect on a local authority’s financial position
and its ability to provide the level of services expected by local
communities. While the household charge is an additional cost to
households, the exemptions and waivers under the Act, protect those in
most need. Those households which have no liability to pay the charge
include:

• Tenants in private rented accommodation;
• Tenants in local authority housing;
• Tenants in receipt of supplementary welfare allowance rent
supplement from the Department of Social Protection;
• Households who are purchasing their homes under the Shared Ownership
Scheme where the local authority still retains an ownership stake;
• Tenants and/or those living in housing provided by voluntary and/or
co-operative bodies;
• Those homeowners who have been forced to vacate their property by
reason of long-term mental or physical infirmity and are now living in
a property which they do not themselves own;
• Those households in receipt of mortgage interest supplement;
• Homeowners residing in certain unfinished housing estates; and
• Those residing in property owned by charities or discretionary trusts.

Furthermore, the legislation includes care and management provisions
for dealing with exceptional circumstances and where there is
particular hardship involved. The Minister asks local authorities to
use these provisions in responding to difficult cases. The Minister
also calls upon elected representatives to behave responsibly and to
encourage payment of the charge. Councillors and Deputies who oppose
collection of the charge should realise that their actions are not
only irresponsible but have a direct negative impact on the quality of
people’s lives in their constituencies.