DESPITE a vote by county councillors to reduce the Local Property Tax (LPT) by 5% for 2016, homeowners will end up paying more than last year.
Councillors voted 32 to 15 in favour of the 5% cut, following a lengthy debate on Monday last. They voted for a 10% cut last year.
Independent Cllr Declan Hurley supported the 5% reduction in the property tax which, he said, will mean the Council has €1m more to spend on much-needed services in the county.
The current property tax rates have been fixed by the current government until the end of 2016.
If, for example, the property tax bill was €400 last year, with the 10% reduction, a homeowner would have paid €40 less (€360). But for 2016, the same bill, with just a 5% reduction, will see the homeowner pay just €20 less (€380).
‘We’re cutting it by 5% to help people, but we’re also retaining 5% for more money to dedicate to services throughout the county,’ said Cllr Declan Hurley.
‘The current government has shrugged its responsibility to local authorities and the general public have done enough bailing out,’ he added.
The independent group in Cork County Council, which consists of 10 independent councillors, gave its full support for the 5% reduction.
‘The independent grouping felt it was very important to reduce the percentage of property tax paid in Cork in 2016, while also investing in additional back-to-basic services that the public are requesting from us,’ said Cllr Hurley, who is spokesperson for the group.
Some of the additional funding will go towards rates relief schemes for small and medium businesses, grass verge-cutting, vacant house repairs, weed control and flower planting.
Fine Gael councillors had earlier called for a zero reduction in the tax. Cllr Kevin Murphy (FG) said: ‘We, as a party, would love to introduce a 10% or 15% reduction but we won’t, because it will affect services that the Council can offer.’
And he said that a 5% reduction would mean an annual saving of €4.50 per individual – or 8 cents a week – for the average homeowner, while those with a €1m home would get back 22 cents a week.
‘We would be looking after the wealthy and we would be helping them much more than they need it,’ said Cllr Murphy.
Cllr Gerard Murphy (FG) said that the Council should adopt a county hedge cutting service with the money saved.
‘This way the approach to the property tax would be more transparent and we could explain to people where their money is going. We can say we’re not reducing the LPT, but that they’re getting something from it,’ said Cllr Murphy.
Fianna Fáil councillors had called for the tax to be maintained at 10%. Cllr Seamus McGrath (FF) said ‘people are very sore about the LPT and that local services haven’t happened.’ He regarded it as an ‘unfair and regressive tax.’
‘We are furious with the Government’s allocation of the LPT for 2016 to Cork County Council and it adds insult to injury, ‘ said Cllr McGrath.
Cllr Des O’Grady (SF) whose party called for a 15% cut, said the tax is ‘regressive and unjust’.
Cllr Paul Hayes (SF) said the main issue with the LPT is that it is money being taken out of the local economy and called it a ‘stealth tax’.
‘Our roads budget has been halved in recent years and it’s an absolute scandal. The LPT is a scam and should be abolished,’ said Cllr Hayes.
Cllr Noel O’Donovan (FG) said this was one of the most important decisions that the Council could make, and that it ‘shouldn’t be political.’
‘We’re not providing a proper service and we have the power to put money where people want it. Nobody likes taxes, but they want services on the ground,’ said Cllr O’Donovan.
The first vote – on the 10% reduction – was defeated by 28 to 13 votes. The second vote – on a 15% reduction – was also defeated, by 28 to 21.
The third, successful, vote was on a 5% cut, and it was passed by 32 to 15 votes.