19 December 2002 Edition

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The Battle for waste Charges Resumes


Did you get your Christmas card from the Dublin City Council, threatening legal proceedings to recover your outstanding charges for rates, what they call 'waste charges', and looking for you to help cover their legal costs in the pursuit of your outstanding bill?

Dublin Council officials have decided, in this year's book of Estimates, that waste-management charges must go up by 26 per cent - from €121 to €156. And that is funny because no one ever said that costs, or the wages of the council workers, had risen by that much. Perhaps it was the wages of the Oxygen workers, the private company that has taken over a slice of the collections? But that's equally unlikely.

So why the increase?

It's simple. The government has cut back its block grant to the councils and so-called 'waste charges' are to compensate.

Christmas Subterfuge

Did you look at the budget and sigh with relief that it didn't really affect you much? Well it did, because all the other little things, which the government is hoping to introduce, while you are off buying the Christmas presents, are coming as sure as is Christmas - and the Government hope is that you may not notice - because it's Christmas.

All the 'little things', like fuel charges, taxing the car, the RTÉ licence fee, they are galloping up in huge steps, and it is exactly as campaigners all said - waste charges have little to do with waste, but are a surrogate for rates.

Whether you have to pay or not depends entirely on what the councillors decide to do next Monday. Just like last year, the councillors have to decide whether to accept the estimates, with the higher waste charges, or whether to do what they are supposed to do - represent the people who elected them, and refuse to impose this exorbitant increase in what is in effect a poll tax - a tax falling on every household, irrespective of earned income into the household.

Ruling out democracy

But the sting in the tail is that if the councillors do what all parties and independents are promising, except of course Fianna Fáil and the PDs - to vote against the Estimates - then the City Manager is threatening to close the council down, and appoint a commissioner to take the place of the elected representatives.

When democracy gets inconvenient, and elected representatives daren't oppose their constituents' interests, then the option is there to simply dispose of the council.

At the time of writing everything hangs in the balance and the Labour Party, Fine Gael, the Greens, Sinn Féin and all the Independents have all declared they will oppose the Estimates. However, indications are that some councillors may break ranks. A story on the front page the Sunday Business Post (15 December( this week revealed a letter from Labour's Dublin Lord Mayor, Dermot Lacey, to Fianna Fáil, in which, prior to the latter party's supporting him in the mayoral bid, he pledged to support the estimates for this year. This is despite the Labour Party imposing a whip on its coucillors to vote against the estimates currently before Dublin City Council.

The vote on Monday 23rd will tell, though the mainstream media may all be too busy with the Christmas break to tell you how they voted, and who, if any, broke ranks.

Make no mistake about it, the government has its eye on rates in England, which are £600 or £700 a household, and that is just where this government would like to go, because with rates the tax falls on all, whether you earn a high or a measly income, and, as we all know, that is just the kind of tax Fianna Fáil and the PDs like.

The only sticking point is the councillors. Will they stick, or will they go for broke? We'll see. Just wait for your Christmas card.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1