“Communities can rightly ask ‘what am I getting for my Local Property Tax?’ And the answer is not a whole lot, because the finances of many local authorities haven’t improved at all since the tax was introduced.”
The Social Democrats today branded the country’s local authority funding system as outdated and deeply unfair to people living in councils with rapidly growing populations.
The party is calling for a complete overhaul of how Local Property Tax is distributed to ensure that all councils can properly meet the needs of their residents.
The party today publishes its proposals, Fairer Funding for Local Authorities, in Navan Co Meath, alongside the local election campaign for the party’s candidates for Meath County Council.
The Social Democrats are fielding a total of four candidates for Meath County Council: Amy McGrath (Navan); Ronan Moore (Trim); Robb Corr (Laytown-Bettystown); and Paul Nolan (Ashbourne).
Speaking ahead of today’s launch, the party’s co-leader Catherine Murphy TD said:
“The current system of funding for our city and county councils is both unfair and out of date. What’s more, it seriously disadvantages councils with growing populations that most need funding for services, including Meath, Kildare, South Dublin, Galway County, Wicklow and Fingal. It means some councils are struggling to provide basic local services such as playgrounds and recreation areas, youth centres, libraries and community halls.
“Communities can rightly ask ‘what am I getting for my Local Property Tax?’ And the answer is not a whole lot, because the finances of many local authorities haven’t improved at all since the tax was introduced. Any gains were taken away by the government’s sneaky withdrawal of other income sources like motor tax funding and grants.”
Ronan Moore running in Trim said:
“The situation in County Meath illustrates just how unfair the current council funding system is. Meath County Council is losing millions in funding each year thanks to the out-of-date way that Local Property Tax is redistributed by central government. Meath Council is at the bottom of the league in terms of spending, and it also has the lowest level of staffing and Government grants per head of population out of all 31 local authorities.
“The amount of money needed to run each county or city council was worked out twenty years ago. Amazingly, the Department of Housing are still working off that same assessment today. Virtually no changes have been made to take account of significant population increases.”
Amy McGrath running in Navan added:
“Meath residents are losing out under a funding system that has pathetically failed to keep up with the changing needs of the county and the 78% increase in population since 1996.
“According to the latest figures, €17.5 million was collected from Meath home-owners under the Local Property Tax in 2018. This goes into a central fund and is then allocated to local authorities. However, only €14m of the €17.5m collected in Meath was given back to Meath Co. Council. There are similar stories in Kildare, Fingal, Galway County, South Dublin County Council, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown and Wicklow.
“The Government needs to go back to the drawing board and establish transparent funding procedures. These must be updated at every census and take into consideration a wide variety of needs and deficits with much more emphasis on population changes.”
As part of our Fair Funding proposals, the Social Democrats want to see:
- A complete over-haul of the funding system for local authorities so that more weight is given to population and so that Councils can respond to increasing demand in their areas.
- Far more Local Property Tax being spent in the area in which it is collected. The Department of Housing should go back to the drawing board and re-establish each Local Authorities’ true needs. These needs should be updated regularly to allow for demographic shifts, infrastructure deficits, and other changes.
- A Transition Fund, starting at €25m to help those Councils who would lose out under new arrangements.
- Supports and expertise to improve the collection of commercial rates in Councils with low collection rates. This will allow Councils to become self-sustaining and less reliant on central funds.
10th May 2019
Fair Funding: The Social Democrats Proposals for Fairer Funding for Local Authorities is available to download here.