I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle. Perhaps he will tell me when I have reached my two minute limit. It will not come as news to the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Hogan, that the household charge is necessary and nor will it come as news to him that the household charge is not universally popular. In respect of the latter, I do not suppose the household charge differs from any other form of taxation while, with regard to the former, the Minister will be aware the Government inherited a memorandum of economic and financial policies signed by the previous Government and voted on by every backbench supporter of the that Government, which included a commitment to introduce a new residential property tax. Furthermore, the memorandum of understanding on specific economic policy conditionality, dated 8 December 2010, contained a list of actions to be completed by the end of the third quarter of 2011. These included a commitment that the Government would ensure that effective measures were in place to cap the contribution of the local government sector to general Government borrowing at an acceptable level. In that context, the current Administration introduced a household charge of €100 to fund vital local services. Nevertheless, the manner in which this charge is being collected is making it even more unpopular than it already was and perhaps more unpopular than it needs to be.
At 70% compliance, County Clare has one of the higher compliance levels in the country. Consequently, 70% of the approximately 55,000 households in County Clare have paid, which means that approximately 16,500 households have not paid. It is highly disconcerting for those who have paid it to see equal services still being provided for those who have not paid it. However, it is even more disconcerting for those who have paid it to receive letters asking them to pay it or asking them to provide proof of having paid it to the very authority to which they brought the cheques.