With almost 1.3 million households yet to pay the household charge, Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan has ordered county council staff to go door-to-door collecting the charge. The collection teams would be deployed after the March 31 deadline. Mayo County Council has not ruled out such action.
Out of a total of 1.6 million households nationwide, a meagre 328,000 households have paid at the time of writing (on Monday). One hundred local authority offices around the country, including Mayo County Council offices, will open next Saturday to cater for the large volume of people who still have to pay the levy.
Minister Hogan has steadfastly refused to extend the March 31 deadline for the household charge, which if paid in full will raise a total of €160 million for the state.
Speaking to The Mayo News about the possibility of council staff knocking on doors throughout the county, Mayo County Council Secretary John Condon said it was ‘too early to say’. “At the moment people are paying the charge,” he said. “That doesn’t arise until next week … we’ll see what needs to be done then. One will have a clearer picture of how it has gone by then.”
Mayo County Manager Peter Hynes has reiterated his belief that the €100 household charge is vital for the maintenance of essential public services in the county, and he has urged households to pay the charge.
However, Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Defence Dara Calleary has called on the Minister for Environment Phil Hogan to extend the household charge deadline and consider further exemptions for individuals with serious mortgage arrears and those on low incomes.
Speaking about the controversial €100 charge, Calleary told RTÉ that the household charge was ‘unfair’, and that the manner in which it was rushed through had caused ‘serious difficulties’.
Deputy Calleary stated, “We oppose the introduction of this tax because of the way it’s being introduced, because of the lack of exemptions for those who have serious mortgage arrears, for pensioners, for [those with an] inability to pay. And we said at the time that the manner in which it was being rushed in would cause serious difficulties, and we’ve been proven correct.”
Environment Minister Phil Hogan commented last week that he was also willing to change data protection legislation to ensure that all of the money can be collected. Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes admitted he was ‘surprised’ by this reference as he said he had never been contacted by the Government prior to the introduction of the household charge legislation.
On Sunday, Minister Hogan flatly rejected an earlier suggestion by Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton that changes were being made which would allow householders to pay the €100 through their post office. He said that no changes in the method of payments or the deadline would be made, despite Minister Burton’s admission that the deadline date was ‘ambitious.’
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