Council Briefs: Local Property Tax, Halloween during Covid-19 and What to Do with Weeds

Local Property Tax

Dublin city councillors voted on Monday to vary the local property tax downwards by the maximum of 15 percent for 2021.

Councillors did the same for this year, last year, the year before and so on – so, in effect this year it will remain the same as it has been for quite some time.

On Monday, Dublin City Council Chief Executive Owen Keegan recommended “in the context of the large gap between viable funding and demand for services”, “a 15% increase on the national basic rate thereby providing an estimated €24.1m in additional funds”. (For context, Dublin City Council’s 2020 budget was a touch over €1 billion.)

Instead, 34 councillors voted for a motion to vary it 15 percent below the basic rate, and 23 voted against.

Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Sinn Féin, People Before Profit, and most independents voted for varying the tax downwards by the maximum amount.

Increasing it would be “an added burden for families and workers that they can ill afford at this time and in Dublin, many families face a very uncertain future”, said Sinn Féin Councillor Daithí Doolan.

Fianna Fáil Councillor Deirdre Heney said that the way in which the property tax is used is not fair.

“Twenty percent of what Dublin householders pay in local property tax goes into an equalization fund which subsidizes other less well off local authorities outside the capital,” she said. That’s €16 million leaving the council area, she said.

“We in Fianna Fáil are happy to assist those less well off. We are not happy to ask our people to pay more property tax in an unfair system,” she said.

The Labour Party, the Social Democrats and most Green Party councillors voted against the motion to vary it downwards.

“The local property tax system is no doubt a flawed one, a wealth tax would be a much more acceptable choice. But we can’t change this here this evening,” Social Democrats Councillor Tara Deacy said.

Said Green Party Councillor Michael Pidgeon: “I think we shouldn’t be at a point where we’re drawing a lesson for 2020 that it should just be tax cuts.”

The council funds homelessness services, the fire brigade and ambulances, among other services, he said.

“We shouldn’t just be clapping and standing up for public services. We should actually be funding them and we are fluffing our chances tonight,” he said.

Labour Party Councillor Dermot Lacey said councillors had been trying to meet with Local Government Minister Darragh O’Brien about the local property tax.

He asked Lord Mayor Hazel Chu whether O’Brien had accepted or declined the council’s request.

“The last we checked there is no reply from the Minister on the matter,” Chu said.

Said Lacey: “It seems to me that we are talking in a vacuum to a certain extent.”

Halloween

Councillors raised concerns over what will fill the void in communities during Halloween after Dublin City Council cancelled their roster of events due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“I know families across the area will be very disappointed that we had to cancel our Halloween events,” says Independents4Change Councillor Pat Dunne at the South East Local Area Committee meeting on Monday 14 September.

In previous years, Dublin City Council ran Halloween festivals such as the Dockers and Demons Festival in Ringsend and Irishtown, The Cauldron of Smithfield and the Phantom of the Flats on Dorset Street.

This was hugely successful and widely accepted by communities, said Dunne.

“It’s not good news from the community development sections point of view,” said DCC Senior Community Development Officer Robert Chester.

While the council are unable to organise any large outdoor events, Chester said that the council are investigating alternatives.

The council are working on moving the Irishtown and Ringsend Halloween festival, Dockers and Demons online, he said.

“We are also looking at running some cabaret events where we will dramatically reduce the numbers but they will come in on a rotational basis in a venue in Ringsend,” Chester said.

“In terms of the cabbage patch[Cabbage Garden, Portobello], which I know is of major concern, we are looking at maybe putting the cinema in there but again it would be based on dramatically reduced numbers and bookings,” he said.

Councillor Dunne said the budget for these should be put aside for a clean up after the bonfires.

“I have no doubt are going to take place right across the various greens particularly in the Crumlin, Drimnagh, Kimmage area,” he said.

Weeds

The council needs an alternative method of getting rid of weeds after they stopped using toxic herbicides , said independent Councillor Vincent Jackson at the South Central meeting last Wednesday 14 September

“When we decided to withdraw from spraying weeds, we should have had some sort of plan in place that would follow on from that,” said Jackson at the meeting which took place via zoom

Jackson asked the council in his motion if they could indicate what alternative solutions they are looking into for the removal of weeds.

People Before Profit Councillor Tina MacVeigh said that she would support the motion provided there was an amendment made to it.

“I would be very concerned that we don’t use any products that are damaging for the environment,” says MacVeigh.

“To me this is just a question of maintenance generally of our public domain,” said MacVeigh.

Jackson said: “I’m all for cutting them or spraying them with some sort of organic material or whatever the case maybe but they are not a feature of Dublin,” .

At a number of the council’s environment and energy committee this issue was discussed, said Green Party Councillor Michael Pidgeon.

Trials were done with mechanically removing the weeds, said Pidgeon.

“Some worked, some didn’t and some worked temporarily. There’s a new [trial] and we’re getting a report on that at the next SPC that I can send your way,” Pidgeon said.

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Donal Corrigan: Donal Corrigan is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. He covers transport, and the southside. To get in contact with him, you can email him on [email protected]

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