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Waste Charges Raised Again in Council
dublin | bin tax/household tax | feature Tuesday October 05, 2004 19:31 by Indy Council Correspondent
More waste charges mooted, increased taxi fares passed, Council to dissolve?
From the newswire (by Indy Council Correspondent):
The issue of waste charges came up in City Council last night but while opposition was as strong as ever, the lack of a coherent strategy to do away with the Charges is glaringly evident.
It is only the start of October and already the issue of Bin Charges and the approach to the Estimates in Dublin City Council has started to become an issue.
At last night’s Council meeting the councillors discussed a draft submission on behalf of the Council to the review of local government funding. The 20 page document contained a wealth of information on the current funding and expenditure of the Council and suggested a number of ways to raise funds in future.
These included a hotel bed tax of two Euros a night and the end to the exemption for state occupied buildings from rates. Both would require Leinster House approval but the latter could mean as much as 24 million Euros a year for the Council, substantially more than the waste charges raise. One of the other options however attracted the anger of Sinn Fein and Independent councillors, namely the proposal to make domestic householders pay the full cost of the waste collection service, which would lead to a massive increase in charges.
Not as widely commented on was the proposal that the Department of Social and Family Affairs reimburse the Council for the cost of the waiver scheme. On the surface, this is hardly a bad thing, but if the Department was to do so it would be obliged to set a single state wide waiver system. With different levels of generosity in different local authorities, the scheme set by the Department might be, indeed would be, far less generous than that currently available from the City Council.
Of course separate to this draft submission, the issue of Bin Charges in the Estimates is only a few months away. Anti Bin Tax campaigners in Ballyfermot have started targeting local Labour councillors, believing their votes to be vulnerable. Labour, Sinn Fein and the three Independents have a combined total of 28 votes, enough to defeat the Estimates, but campaigners are concerned at whether the Labour vote in particular will hold.
Fine Gael, the Green and the PD Councillors continue to support the Charges but Fianna Fail might do anything from vote against, to vote for, to abstain, in order to make things as difficult as possible for the Labour-FG alliance on City Council.
But while the Anti-Bin Tax campaign calls for these votes, there is little sign of a strategy from them, or the parties.
The opposition to the Bin Tax consisted of two, not necessarily complimentary strategies. Sinn Fein and Labour focussed on Council votes, and on a number of occasions came close to collapsing the Council only to see it saved by Labour councillors and the casting vote of a Labour Mayor. The Campaign on the outside focussed on non-payment as the way to break the campaign.
Arguably the biggest mistake was the lack of a unified approach between the two strategies but either way the simple truth is that both have failed. While thousands continue not to pay, their numbers are in steep decline. Campaigners who claim the Bin Charges can still be defeated through non-payment are guilty of propagating a dishonest fantasy.
At the same time the Council based approach of Labour and SF has also failed, with the decision of the Government to rig democracy by taking the power to set the charges out of the hands of councillors as a response to the campaign against them both within and without.
So what happens in December? Well if Labour, SF and the Independents hold firm and collapse the Council, unlikely but possible, then the Council is dissolved and a Commissioner appointed.
And here’s the rub. What happens then? How does collapsing the Council advance an end to Bin Charges? Arguably, the appointment of a Commissioner with the power to set whatever Estimates he or she would like would open the door to the kind of Charges regime mentioned in the draft submission on local government funding where the householder pays the full cost of the service. It would certainly mean an end to the work of councillors on other issues representing their constituents.
Of course if the dissolution of the Council would lead to an end to the Charges, then it might well be worth doing, but neither the Anti-Bin Tax campaign nor the parties opposed to it seem to have a strategy for doing so. Yes, collapsing the Council would send a powerful message of the anger of local people, but would it leave householders better or worse off? What is the strategy if the Council does dissolve?
The likelihood of this happening however is low. While FF will make things as difficult as possible they’re likely to back the Estimates in the end and Labour are hardly likely to allow the message to be sent out that they and FG can’t run a Council, let along a government.
But the deeper question remains unanswered. Is the campaign against the Bin Tax defeated? And if so, why are certain individuals keeping it going? If it is not defeated, what, if anything, is the strategy for victory? At present the aim seems to be to dissolve the Council but there is little focus on what happens after that. And that might be a mistake that a lot of Dubliners will have to pay for.
In a postscript, City Councillors voted to support a 7% increase in taxi fares from January 2005. The motion was supported by Labour, FF, SF and Independent councillors and opposed by FG and the PD councillor. This is the first approved fare increase for two years.
Most recent bin tax story on Indymedia:
Cork non-payment and statistics
Bin Tax Stories from Other Sources: