That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to require the making of an order which allocates funds raised by the local property tax to each local authority and for that purpose to amend the Finance (Local Property Tax) Act 2012 and to provide for related matters.
The spirit of the Bill is to ensure that a percentage of the property tax collected in a local authority area is retained for use in that area to maintain and improve local services.
I thank the Ceann Comhairle for giving me the opportunity to move the Finance (Local Property Tax) (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2014. This Bill, if enacted, would give effect to a Government commitment, made on 12 March 2013 by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Hogan, that 80% of the local property tax collected in a local authority area will be retained for use by the local authority to fund local services. This commitment has not been included in local property tax legislation leaving it open to be reneged upon. Unfortunately, this has already happened this year, with a significant proportion of the property tax being used to fund the establishment of Irish Water instead of local services as promised.
Many constituents have raised concerns with me about the property tax. There are some who do not want to pay a property tax and do not think it is a fair tax. However, most have informed me that they do not have a problem paying a property tax if it will benefit local services in their area. They want to see a difference being made on the ground in their local community.
Services that are the responsibility of a local authority include the following - libraries, open spaces, public parks, street maintenance and street lighting, and fire and emergency services. These are services that benefit all members of the community.
It is only fair that taxpayers are provided with concrete assurance as to where their hard-earned money paid as property tax will be used in their areas and perhaps a breakdown of this money and how it is spent could be provided by each local authority to each household in order to ensure full transparency and accountability of local property tax moneys collected.
It is my worry that if legislation is not introduced to ensure that 80% of the tax is allocated to the local authority and the local authority has the power to set property tax rates in the future, local authorities may be more likely to seek increases in the property tax rate of up to 15% in the future. This leads to concerns that hard-pressed families will be charged even more tax when some are already not satisfied with the services they receive from their local authority. A further hike in property tax would be the final straw for many families which are already struggling financially.
It is extremely worrying that property prices in Dublin are increasing rapidly once again. People now face the prospect of being priced out of the housing market. For many, renting is the only option available for the foreseeable future. Dublin residents are paying the highest level of property tax in the country because of the higher price of property in the city. It is only right that taxes paid on Dublin properties should be ring-fenced and remain in Dublin to benefit the communities in which they are paid.
This Bill will also bring Ireland in line with other countries the local services of which are already administered by local authorities and financed by local service charges similar to a property tax.
I thank the Ceann Comhairle, the Bills Office, the Library and Research Service and support staff for help with this Bill. It is a short and concise Bill and I hope it will be debated and enacted quickly and as soon as possible by the Government. It simply ensures that the Government keeps its promise about how the local property tax should be used and provides greater transparency for taxpayers by showing them where exactly their money is being spent.