Government hiding behind Council cuts – claims Pringle

Next month, Donegal County Council will discuss the impact on council services of a €1 million cut in the council’s Local Government Fund allocation.

This cut comes in the council’s third-quarter payment, though the Department of the Environment and Local Government informed the council last month that Donegal faced an overall cut of more than €4 million in its allocation for this year. The reduction was tied to the number of Donegal property owners who have not paid the household charge.

But Thomas Pringle, independent TD for Donegal South West and one of the first TDs to announce that he would not pay the charge, said last week that the government was using non-payment as an excuse for cuts that had already been planned or in place.

Speaking on Pat Kenny’s radio programme on RTÉ, Deputy Pringle said, “Already this year library services have been cut by €600,000. We’ve seen the closure of Killybegs library, we’ve seen the closure of Ramelton library, the reduction in hours for Donegal town and Ballyshannon.

“So the government is going to try and use this argument now that the only reason there’s cuts in Donegal is because we haven’t paid the household charge,” he said.

“Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay originated in west Donegal last summer before becoming a grassroots campaign in communities across the country. When the initial March 31st deadline for payment passed this year, Donegal had one of the highest rates of non-payment in the country. Even today, according to government estimates – which tend to be lower than those of Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay campaigners – nearly 40 percent of property owners nationally have not paid.

Now, according to Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) Chief Executive Officer Paul McSweeney, the agency is ready to take people to court for non-payment, as soon as October.

“This isn’t something we want to do,” Mr. McSweeney said. “No, of course it’s not.”

Mr. McSweeney also said on Friday that local authorities will soon be pressed to take very drastic action because of the impact of non-payment of the household charge on local authority funding.