Belfast Telegraph

Confusion over household tax plans

The coalition Government appears at odds over plans for a controversial flat-rate household tax.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny suggested the levy had been agreed by Fine Gael and Labour in advance but his deputy Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore insisted it had not been considered.

Environment minister Phil Hogan previously revealed that homeowners would be hit with two new taxes - a household charge at the turn of the year followed by water metering.

But Mr Gilmore said: "The Government has not considered a household charge. What is in the Programme for Government is a proposal in relation to metering for water.

"And the proposals as to how that might be implemented have not yet been considered by the Government."

A spokeswoman for the Tanaiste said there was no divergence between the parties - even though it appears Mr Hogan went public with the plans before they were discussed by Cabinet.

"That's the minister's proposal. Ministers are entitled to bring forward whatever proposals that they want, and they will be brought back to Cabinet and discussed," she said.

It is the second time in a week that the Government parties have appeared at odds, after Labour backbenchers hit out at enterprise minister Richard Bruton over his plans to cut the pay of low earners.

Mr Bruton was forced to deny that his plans to reduce overtime and Sunday premiums would cause a rift in the coalition.

Fianna Fail's Michael McGrath said the coalition appeared to be "at sixes and sevens" on the household charge. "We've a lot of conflicting messages and contradictory signals and I think householders who are struggling to pay bills as it stands at least deserve to have the full picture as to if, and when, the charge is coming in and the likely cost," he said.

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