When I heard it I actually sat up in my seat, and started googling for more information. There, buried in the budget speech, was one of the most radical acts of political reform since the abolition of the dual mandate, and no one seems to have noticed. In short, Michael Noonan announced that county councillors would have the power to adjust the property tax rate up or down by 15%.
So what, says you? Big deal. It actually is, and here’s why: suddenly, the councillor calling to your door looking for a vote in the local elections is actually responsible for money in YOUR pocket. He or she, by offsetting spending in the council, can reduce your tax bill. More importantly, by not offsetting it, by not making cuts, he gives a nice political mallet to some guy running for the council to hit him over the head with, because he can’t do what a TD does and blame the government, because there is no government in the council, only your councillor.
I am so surprised by this that I actually wonder if the government have thought this through. Suddenly, councillors will actually have records to run on, on the one issue Irish voters really care about: money. As well as that, this thing could catch on. Supposing a young councillor were to propose cuts that could cut property tax by more than 15%. What happens then? Someone sues the council for trying to cut taxes too much? There’s a hell of a way of building a political name for an upcoming candidate.
Will the government back down, and give the county manager a veto? Or is the government being really smart, reckoning it is going to lose loads of seats in the 2014 local elections anyway, and so putting the blame for high property taxes into the hands of newly elected FF, SF and ULA councillors in the run up to the 2016 general election?