No extension to Household Charge deadline - Minister Phil Hogan

Friday 30 March 2012 12.02
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Phil Hogan said there was no threat of jail for those who do not pay the charge
Phil Hogan said there was no threat of jail for those who do not pay the charge
Michael McGrath wants the deadline extended beyond 31 March
Michael McGrath wants the deadline extended beyond 31 March

Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan has reiterated that there would be no extension to the Household Charge payment deadline.

He has also refused to say how many people he expects to pay the charge.

Responding to questions, he said "you never have exact figures, as people get mortgage interest supplement or social housing the figures are going to move".

He added that when the legislation was brought in it was estimated that 1.6 million would pay the charge.

Minister Hogan said there will be no threat of jail to those who do not pay.

Regarding a planned protest by the Campaign Against the Household Charge at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis this weekend, he said he had no difficulty with people protesting.

Earlier Fianna Fail's Michael McGrath called on the Government to concede that a mistake has been made in relation to the Household Charge.

Mr McGrath said the Government should listen to the many thousands who do not have access to €100 between now and Saturday's deadline.

Speaking during Leaders' Questions in the Dail, he called on the Government to extend the deadline for payment and allow people to pay it by instalments.

Mr McGrath added that the only thing stopping them from doing this is the stubborn political pride of Minister Hogan and the Government.

He asked how they could impose fines and penalties on ordinary Irish people who have a legitimate reason for not paying by Saturday’s deadline.

Minister for Public Expenditure & Reform Brendan Howlin asked TDs "not to play petty politics with the Household Charge", adding that this is part of the country's survival strategy.

Minister Howlin said the local government fund needs to meet €160m this year and when there is a shortfall it will impact on services.

Elsewhere, Fianna Fail Senator Paschal Mooney has told the Seanad that there is further confusion over the charge.

Mr Mooney said people who are living above commercial premises who believed themselves to be exempt on foot of payment of commercial rates, are, it appears, not exempt.

Labour Senator Ivana Bacik said she regrets the fact that it is a flat rate charge, although she reminded the Seanad that this would only be for one year.

Elsewhere, Minister of State Brian Hayes reiterated that the Government cannot row back on the charge.

Mr Hayes said it was €160m that the Government had to get which would be ringfenced for local service.

He said that if it was not paid, the Government would have to raise it some other way.

He said the principle objective of the Government was to keep taxes on labour low - and they did not want to increase income tax to pay for local charges.

He said the Household Charge was the first step to a fully funded equitable property tax.

The minister said he was confident that as Saturday's deadline approached, the numbers paying would dramatically increase.

He said historically Irish people tended to pay such bills at the last minute.

Mr Hayes also said opponents of the charge would have to explain to the Irish people what services they would cut or close down, such as parks and streetlights.

He said the country's finances were in an appalling state, and needed to be restored to a balanced position, which meant new taxes were required.

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