Cllr Nick Killian
A Fianna Fáil councillor is demanding immediate intervention from Environment Minister Phil Hogan to ensure that tens of thousands of people who have paid the household charge in County Meath are not hit with false penalties and charges.
Cllr Nick Killian, Ratoath, has expressed alarm over the latest twist in the household charge saga, which has seen thousands of warning letters mistakenly sent to householders who have already paid the charge.
"The roll-out and collection of the household charge in Meath has been a complete fiasco from the very beginning; this is not the fault of officials in Meath County Council which Minister Hogan is trying to portray, simply his own ineptitude," said Cllr Killian. "And just when you think the maximum amount of confusion, chaos and distress has been caused, the fiasco is brought to an entirely new level."
He went on: "As if it wasn't enough to threaten households who haven't paid the charge and to penalise local authorities with budget cuts based on collection figures, €814,000 in Meath's case, we now have a situation where thousands of householders who did pay are threatened with fees and charges.
"People are now wondering how can this have happened? The failure by Minister Hogan to plan a fair household charge system allowing people enough time to pay in a variety of ways, and to communicate properly with the public and local authorities, has meant that this system has been riddled with difficulties from the beginning."
The Fianna Fail councillor said this latest revelation raises additional concerns that budget cuts imposed on local authorities due to non-collection of the household charge were inaccurate. "The Local Authority Management Agency, which issued the letters in error last week, is the same agency that has collated the figures on household charge payment.
"Minister Hogan must clarify immediately that the figures of successful household collection are correct, and the budget cuts he has imposed on councils around the country are not based on false assumptions of non-collection of the charge."
A spokesperson for Meath County Council said: "Householders who have received a reminder letter, having already paid the household charge, need not be concerned as their payment is registered and can be tracked through their reference number and PPS number. Depending on their method of payment, they may also have a receipt. However, concerned householders are advised to call the collection agency Lo Call 1890 357357.