Water Tax and Local Authorities

[Speaking in the Seanad during Order of Business]

I join Senator MacSharry in calling for a debate to get some clarity on what is happening with respect to the charge for local services, property tax and the allied issue of water tax. There is no doubt that we used to have local services and water. They were paid for by general taxation. We have been told that it makes sense to have a water tax to link consumption of water to what we pay for water, and I totally understand that. However, surely the money that people paid in tax that used to be for water should no longer have to be paid since they are now paying for it through their water tax. People’s tax bill should go down by the corresponding amount. Otherwise, it simply becomes an extra bonanza for the Government.

We read this morning that we have basically built in a disincentive to efficiency and cost control in our local authorities by the approach taken to high-spending local authorities which may not be giving sufficient attention to how they shepherd their principal resource, namely, the money given to them by their citizens. We are told that if they do a bad job and spend prolifically then they can always get topped up by the neighbouring council, which may be doing a somewhat better job in shepherding these resources. To me, the logic is, put simply, that if a local authority charges a certain amount of tax and finds that it is surplus to requirements, it should refund the tax.

I could understand if some of the money was used in the context of the current national health emergency to pay for health services which are being run down. That would save lives. However, I cannot understand handing it over to the next local authority which is not doing a particularly good job in managing its resources. I join Senator Marc MacSharry in asking for a full-blooded debate on the issue, many of the implications of which have not been worked out.

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