Families and council in stand-off over household charge
Angry homeowners living in a Co Longford housing estate believe they are being forced into paying the Government’s controversial household charge despite the development remaining unfinished.
Residents from Longford town’s Cartrun Breac development hit out at the decision this week after several families received letters with late payment fines and interest penalties attached.
They claim Longford County Council inadvertently included the site in a county-wide survey of estates liable for the charge even though half of it lies in receivership.
“The residents feel extremely let down by the council because Cartrun Breac was not correctly classified as an unfinished estate,” said a spokesperson for the estate’s residents committee. “It would appear that the council did not consult with the developer or the residents or indeed even view the estate themselves or they would have seen that no work was undertaken on the estate for some time.”
“The position of the residents here is further frustrated by the fact that the council allowed the bond to expire which means that the insurance we were told was in place to secure the estate when we were buying our properties was removed.”
In an attempt to rectify the stand-off, residents contacted government officials only to be told council staff had included the estate in its list of developments deemed liable for the charge.
“When we contacted the Dept of Environment to ascertain why we were liable for payment of the household charge, they informed us that a survey had been completed by Longford Couny Council which did not have us in the correct category of unfinished estate,” said the spokesperson.
Taking up the matter at last week’s meeting of Longford Town Council, Cllr Michael Connellan said the time for questioning was over.
“This is very upsetting and annoying for the residents,” he said. “They are being asked to pay a household charge in an estate that is clearly unfinished. Money has been given from one of the departments to bring the estate up to a good standard of living with regards health and safety and yet residents are being asked to pay the household charge.”
In a statement, Longford County Council said by their very definition unfinished estates were not identified for suitability to the household charge but rather for public safety funding purposes.
The council also defended its role in the affair, insisting any survey on unfinished estates related to data first devised by government representatives two years ago.
“The listing of estates entitled to waivers from the household charge was based on survey information gathered by the Department of the Environment during 2011 and would have been based on the status of the estates at that time. (It’s also) understood that the developer in Carton Breac was still active in 2011 and the estate would therefore not fall into either categories three or four (of the Local Government (Household Charge) Regulations 2012.
“It should be noted that the Unfinished Estates team started to assist the Town Council in June 2012 following a restructuring of the Directorates. During 2011 any information on Carton Breac would have been provided to the Department by Longford Town Council rather than the Unfinished Estates Team,” it pointed out.
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