We had our first full Council meeting yesterday and it was quite a baptism of fire. We spent an hour debating the 15% reduction in the Property Tax – one of four similar Motions put forward by amongst others the Political Party who introduced it, Fine Gael!
After all interested parties had contributed their tuppence worth, the Chief Executive pointed out that despite what was agreed by us Councillors, if the proposed cut meant the Council couldn’t function properly, then the decision would be overruled anyway.
Obviously everyone wants to ease the burden on hardpressed householders, but I felt I couldn’t make an informed decision without all the relevant information from the Department of Environment about whether or not SDCC will be getting the cash collected from the LPT and we don’t have that yet. We also need clarification about whether or not SDCC will have further funding cuts imposed because of the property tax windfall.
But without doubt the most surreal moment in the meeting was when the acting Housing Manager asked us to approve the purchase of eight properties on behalf of the Simon Community in Lucan. The cost of the eight properties is €843,500 and management wanted us to approve this Capital Assistance Scheme spend without seeing any documentation. The acting manager couldn’t even tell us the cost of each unit! After all the hardship and suffering imposed on families in our communities, has nothing changed? Independent Councillor Guss O’Connell was looking for the Motion to be deferred to September so we could have a look at all documentation and make an informed decision then. But the acting manager actually said that the deal might be lost if we didn’t agree yesterday. I honestly thought the culture of rushing into property deals was in the past, where it belongs.
The current housing crisis is one of the biggest scandals in our society – caused in no small part by the frenzied fear of never getting a foot on the property ladder during the last building boom. People bought properties they couldn’t afford and as a result of that, families from all walks of life find themselves in a living nightmare of losing their homes. The Council has a responsibility to provide a roof over their heads. But we cannot simply repeat the same mistakes to find a short term solution.
When people voted for Independents in this last election, you voted for change – real change. Not the same political parties posturing and petty point-scoring. Headline grabbing grandstanding doesn’t help families who have nowhere to sleep tonight or those struggling to put food on the table, never mind paying property tax. After this meeting, I’ve discovered that we really have our work cut out to offer the real representation you demanded by deserting the main political parties, but believe me, I am up for this challenge.