The Deputy Mayor of Cork County, Cllr Mary Linehan Foley, has been accused of being “anti-rural” and “populist” with a Motion seeking that Local Property Taxes collected in Cork should be kept in their own particular area.
The tax was established to fund services such as maintaining public lighting, roads and paths, grounds keeping and managing public parking. However, 40% of the Authority overall allocation of €32million in Local Property Tax last year, was used to replace Government grants, or self-fund housing and roads services.
“We were told at the very beginning that all local Property Tax would be kept in the area in which it was collected. The majority of people were happy with that because they have pride in their communities and had no problem paying into a tax that would enhance their communities. This hasn’t happened” commented the Independent Cllr.
At present the Government is conducting a review of how the Property Tax is calculated and distributed, following a review by Dr Don Thornhill in 2015.
Dr Thornhill ’s review concluded that 100% of the local Property Tax should be retained by each Local Authority, with the weaker areas receiving additional Exchequer funding.
While Cllrs agreed that 100% of the tax collected in the County should remain in Cork, many took offence at a suggestion that taxes raised in a particular town should remain in that town.
For 2018 Cork County Council collected €41million in Local Property Tax, with €8million diverted to Central Government to assist poorer counties.
Sinn Fein Cllr Melissa Mullane was the first dissenting voice to the Motion stating that she found it “a little bit populist.”
“It’s very unfair to leave an area behind. Just because Mallow, for example, may be a bigger area than Rockchapel, it shouldn’t mean that they don’t get the same services. It’s not fair and it’s not equitable” she said.
“The finance collected locally should be expended locally. After all, he who pays the piper calls the tune” commented Cllr Noel Collins.
Fine Gael Cllr Kevin Murphy said “the Motion should be amended to read that 100% of Property Tax raised in the County should go back to the county, and leave the equalisation fund to taxes, to beef up the Counties that don’t have the same value of property tax.”
Cllr Linehan Foley said her Motion was being over complicated by some Cllrs, and took umbrage to Sinn Fein’s comments that she was being populist.
She said the intention of her Motion was that the entire money collected in property tax should be redistributed across the region.
“It’s Cork County money, collected in Cork County, and it should stay in Cork County and not be put into the Government coffers” she said.
Fianna Fail Cllr Seamus McGrath said his reading of the agenda item was that money raised in Cork County should stay in Cork County.
He said what he found worrying with the Local Property Tax was that it is substituting Government grants.
“€16million of the €40million that was collected is simply taken from Government grants . That should no longer happen and we should be able to retain Property Tax as additional money” he said.