Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 27 June 2018
Committee on Public Petitions
Decisions on Public Petitions Received
We will now consider the public petitions. The first is Petition No. P0008/17. It is proposed that the committee forward a copy of the latest reply from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government to the petitioner with a copy of the Mediation Act 2017 and close the petition. Is that agreed? Agreed.
The next petition for consideration is Petition No. P0006/18. The decision of the committee is to forward a copy of the reply from Dublin City Council to the petitioner and close the petition. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I wish to comment on that particular petition. I realise the committee has dealt with the Prince Albert discussion previously. This arises against the backdrop of the removal of statues in the United States, an issue that has caused much division, consternation and debate. That is a healthy thing. The point made in the response from Dublin City Council is good in the sense that it is not the role of Dublin City Council to arbitrate retrospectively on the merits of pieces of art and the erection of same.
I remember when the head was finalised on the old stone statue. I passed the park many times on Sundays when I was covering games in Parnell Park. I remember the time it was vandalised. There was an analysis article in the Sunday Independentat the time. It is not good if we start retrospectively pulling down every artwork because of changing moods at a particular time. There should be good debates. There is no harm in having a petition before us on the matter but I believe the response from the city council is right. I echo the line taken by the city council on how arbitrating retrospectively on the merits of works is not somewhere we want to go.
Thank you, Deputy. I am going to move on. The final petition for consideration is Petition No. P00024/18. This is in respect of a two-tier system whereby those who can afford a newer car pay less motor tax. This relates to the pre-2008 legislation cars subject to the old regime on motor tax. The committee is proposing that we forward a copy of the reply from the Office of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to the petitioner and close the petition. I need your agreement on that. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I wish to comment on this particular issue. It is something that is of significant importance from a financial point of view. This issue has come before the Committee of Public Accounts. Only yesterday, we were finalising our periodic report. There is an entire chapter in the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on this issue because of the impact on public finances.
The Comptroller and Auditor General has highlighted the fact that over the coming ten years there will be an increase in vehicle registration but a drop in income of €250 million in receipts from motor taxation because of the lower rates paid on newer cars. The fourth point in the response from the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport refers to how any restructuring of the motor tax system generally takes place in an overall budgetary context but that at present no plans are in place to move away from charging motor tax on the basis of carbon emissions. That is fine. However, what is neither fine nor being considered by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, the Minister for Finance or the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government is how the Government plans to fill the hole of €250 million that will develop.
Where does that money go? It goes to local government. The local government system is the most under-funded system in this country. I asked a parliamentary question on the matter and I got a smart-assed answer back. I asked about the impact on the income of local government. Of course there has been a sleight of hand because income is not paid directly into the Local Government Fund. Instead, it goes to central Exchequer funds. Anyway, it finds its way back into the local government system by virtue of the fact that it goes to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport for roads.
The Comptroller and Auditor General has also criticised the Government in light of the multiplicity of funding streams being used to fund local government. The end product is that we get a weakened system of local government by virtue of how this is all set up. This is wrong. It is laughable that on the one hand a Minister will reply by saying that any restructuring will have to be done within a budgetary context. Yet, at the same time the Government is making no provision for the fact that there will be a €250 million hole in the funding stream that makes its way into local government. That is a big amount of money by any stretch of the imagination.
Thank you, Deputy Cassells. We have agreed to forward a copy of the reply from the office of the Minister to the petitioner and we are closing the petition. The point is made. There is sympathy for the case being made in this instance by the petitioner on the basis that 2008 was such an arbitrary year. Not everyone has been in a position since then to change or upgrade their vehicles. Many people are still driving a 2008 vehicle or a pre-2008 vehicle and find themselves in a different motor tax band. There is a difficulty therein. There is sympathy but in terms of dealing with the petition we have decided to send a copy of the reply from the Minister to the petitioner.
Another thing is happening in that section as well. Obviously it is being done to promote online registration or payment of motor tax. That is perfectly fine. Anyway, those who are making payments on a quarterly basis are being penalised to the tune of €120. In contrast, those using a one-payment system can do so on the basis of €20.
The Committee of Public Accounts will be taking the Department to task on that as well. Those are absolute cowboy tactics. No additional administration charges are incurred yet people are charged over €100 more. It is shocking. I have no wish to steal Deputy Sean Fleming's thunder because he will be going after them on that as well.
You will be riding this horse in the Committee of Public Accounts as well, Deputy. The Committee of Public Accounts is dealing with that issue. I do not think there is any suggestion at this stage that we take it further.