Luas congestion charge will penalise workers & force them back into cars – Mitchell

Decision will set precedent for hikes on bus, DART and rail tickets. Fine Gael Transport Spokesperson Olivia Mitchell TD has described the decision to introduce a congestion charge for morning rush hour LUAS customers as ‘outrageous’. She was speaking after the Rail Procurement Agency confirmed that an extra charge of 10 cent will be imposed on tickets between 7.45am and 9.30am.

‘It is completely unacceptable to have congestion charging introduced into this country without any prior notice or public debate. This is a completely new departure in public transport pricing policy, and is also the thin edge of the wedge for all commuters. Higher peak hour charges will undoubtedly follow for bus, DART and main rail services, all of which are equally congested at peak times. Like congestion charges elsewhere this charge will continue to rise over time.

‘A fare increase like this is counterproductive, because it will discourage the use of public transport and force passengers back into their cars. It assumes that commuters have alternatives, and that they can and will vary their work hours and departure times to avoid the 10 cent surcharge. It assumes that commuters enjoy and consciously choose to travel in congested carriages. The reality is that the lives of most workers are restricted, not just by their working hours but also by family considerations, such as the need to bring children to crèches and schools.

‘In many cases commuters simply cannot vary their departure times to avoid the LUAS morning peak period. To suggest they should leave earlier and ‘have a cup of coffee’ before going to work is simply an insult and an extra cost for hard-pressed commuters.

‘This exercise can only be seen as revenue-raising, rather than a genuine attempt to deal with overcrowding. Instead of using price differentiation to penalise workers, the Government should provide extra peak hour trams and liberalise the bus market to increase public transport capacity.

‘LUAS customers have been unanimous in their delight with the service so far. It is a real slap in the face to their most loyal daily users to single them out for this odious charge.’

I don’t get why they are introducing it? LUAS is paying for itself so therefore its profiteering. This is the time of day it is supposed to be used, so we dont have traffic gridlock on the streets of Dublin

Government Announces New Plan for Care of the Elderly

Via RTÉ

Its about time they did this but I have huge reservations to this part of the Plan

The plan provides for the State to recoup some of the cost of care from older people after their death, when their home is sold.

What if it is left to a member of the family, I know they have to pay inheritance tax etc, but how can they put another tax on it, I suppose it will be another Stealth Tax, they’ll tax ya despit you being dead!

I like this part of the plan though

The distinction between a public and private nursing home bed is to end.

But basically will pay more if you can!

Water charges unjust stealth tax caused by Govt under-funding – Naughten

Speech by Denis Naughten TD at IFA Meeting on Water Charges, Monday December 4th 2006.

Fine Gael Agriculture & Food Spokesman, Denis Naughten TD has branded water charges as a ‘stealth tax’ on food production and farm business, which will put huge financial pressure on many farm families.

Denis Naughten who was addressing an IFA meeting in Roscommon Town on behalf of the Fine Gael Party said this evening:

“Business, including many of our local food businesses and farmers are struggling to survive due to the high cost of energy and other input costs which have risen dramatically over the term of this Government and the proposed increase in water charges will threaten the viability of some operations.

“These increases come at a time when farm incomes have dropped significantly in recent years and the average farm family is operating at a loss of €75 each week. Water charges are even more discriminatory when it comes to farmers, many of whom would have a low usage of water but, due to farm fragmentation, will have to pay for a number of water meters.

“On average, in the West of Ireland, most farmers will require at least three meters, with 20% of farmers requiring five or more meters, given the number of farm parcels they own. It is unjust for Government on the one hand not to facilitate the reduction in farm fragmentation by failing to address the taxation system which taxes farmers at a rate of up to 29% and then impose a water charging structure which penalises farmers who have fragmented holdings.

“Government must get its act together and ensure that farmers are not discriminated against and are treated in a similar manner to all other businesses. The dramatic increase in water charges and the new pricing structure being proposed by local authorities is as a direct result of reduced funding from the Government, which has forced them to make up more of their budget from local taxes and charges.

“For 2007 alone the Minister for the Environment is only increasing the Local Government Budget by a measly 2% which will result in more stealth taxes being levied on households, business and farm families. Such an increase does not take into account the rate of inflation, implementation of the partnership agreement and its impact on salaries nor does it address the dramatic rise in input costs.

“Specifically in the water services area the funding which local authorities will receive in 2007 does not take into account rising wage costs, chemical costs or energy costs. On top of this the rate of payment from the Department of the Environment for domestic water supplies has not increased in order to cover the cost of providing this element of the public water supply. These deficits must be made up by local government and this will be achieved by significant increases in water charges to farmers and business.

“This is despite the fact that, according to the Government’s own report, there will be a €1.5 billion shortfall by 2010 in local government funding. It is absolutely clear that the Government intends to continue their policy of taxing householders, businesses & farm families by stealth in order to make up the massive shortfall that this year’s Budget will not come close to address.

“These new water charges will add to the burden on already hard pressed farmers and business people. It is inexcusable that a time of unprecedented national wealth- and such astonishing waste of public money on everything from PPARS to E-Voting- that Local Authorities are forced to pass on such charges.

“To make the situation even worse the Water Management and Rehabilitation Programme, including water conservation programme, under the National Development Plan, which should have funded the reduction in the scale of leakage on the water supply network hugely underperformed, with only 35% of expenditure actually allocated and drawn down. This is despite the cost-benefit analysis of such water conservation projects which found that these projects were almost invariably highly worthwhile.

“If this funding had been utilised then the scale of leakage from the water distribution network would have been significantly reduced and this would have avoided the situation whereby both farmers and business will have to not only pay for the water they use but the water that leaks from the distribution pipes before it comes near them at all.

“It is wrong for Government to force this stealth tax on business and farm families when this is solely due to Government incompetence. But again we have to pay for the gross mismanagement by this particular Government.

“Rural Water Investment in the NDP was also under funded with only 54% of the original target spent on the programme; part of this funding will have to come from farmers in the future.

“Fine Gael has consistently called on the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to increase the funding available to councils so that farmers and local businesses are not forced to bear the burden of these charges.

“We also believe that rather than introducing and increasing stealth taxes the Government should collect the money which is owed to them in motor tax. Conservatively the Government estimates that over €40m in motor tax is unpaid every year. This funding would go a significant part of the way to address the under funding of councils throughout the country.

“It is equally unfair on farmers that the current Farm Waste Management Grants do not provide supports to help farmers deal with surplus waste water. It is a huge flaw of this grant scheme that it does not include funding for clean water storage tanks.

“Not only must farmers, in order to comply with the Nitrates Directive, foot the bill for such tanks, but the Department has failed to even provide farmers with a specification guidance document as to the required size of such tanks. But of course that would reduce the Government’s overall take in stealth taxes. Once again this Government has created a problem and left farmers to clean up the mess.

“Furthermore, through the Government’s water pricing policy, all new water schemes must come up with a significant amount of the funding from commercial water rates. In the past local authorities received 100% grant aid for capital works such as the upgrading of waters schemes and laying of water mains. However this has been reduced back to as little as 30% in some circumstance. This is hugely frustrating for farmers who, in many cases, do not benefit from such enhancements. The fact is that these costs will be passed directly on to the public through increased costs on services and food products.

“These new increased charges are caused by Government under-funding of local authorities and will lead to the privatisation of water supplies throughout the country. For many people in rural areas, who established and paid for water schemes, the fact that their investment will now be handed over to private companies is totally unacceptable”.

“Fine Gael opposed the privatisation of water services when this law came before the Dáil but sadly, our local Government TD’s supported such privatisation at that time.

“Fine Gael wants to ensure that farmers are not discriminated against due to farm fragmentation. We are also want water storage facilities included as part of the farm waste management grant which would help farmers reduce there overall liability for water charges.

“And we want proper funding for local authorities to cover the cost of running services, upgrading water schemes and detecting leaks.”