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  • News

COMMENT: Politicians scramble to avert LPT crisis

Monday, 22nd January, 2018 7:59am

Story by Tony McCullagh
COMMENT: Politicians scramble to avert LPT crisis

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy pictured handing over the keys to the resident of a housing co-op last year. FILE PHOTO

COMMENT: Politicians scramble to avert LPT crisis

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy pictured handing over the keys to the resident of a housing co-op last year. FILE PHOTO

REFUNDS may have drawn a line under the water charges controversy - one of the most farcical chapters in modern political history. Now the Government is finally turning its attention to the property tax elephant in the room which looks set to stampede through the corridors of Leinster House if it’s not confronted head-on.

Last September, this columnist wondered when our TDs and minsters would start the process of backtracking on LPT, a political timebomb set to detonate in November 2019 when new property valuations are due to come into play. 

I wrote at the time: “It’s a daunting prospect, not only for squeezed homeowners, but for politicians seeking our votes. They will be hoping and praying that the issue of property valuations doesn’t coincide with a general election campaign. Many former TDs are still nursing wounds from the hammering they took over water charges in 2016. If the Government has learned anything from this bruising experience, it will seek to either reform or abolish property tax within the next two years.”

And so it has come to pass, with senior Government ministers making soothing noises about LPT and playing down fears of dramatic hikes based solely on the value of properties.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy will be acutely aware of the disproportionate burden that would be placed on many of his constituents in leafy Dublin 4 in the event of the criteria for calculating LPT remaining unchanged. And many of Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe’s potential voters will have seen an increase in the value of their homes thanks to the Luas Cross City bounce.

Minister for Transport, Shane Ross, has added his tuppence worth, calling for waivers for older people who, although may live in expensive homes, could be on a fixed or low income.

So with all these ministerial heavy-hitters getting their spoke in early and LPT now actively under review, there is a reasonable expectation that we will see either a very modest or negligible change in what we pay – or even a complete capitulation on the issue by the Government in the run up to a general election.

With a divisive abortion referendum coming down the tracks, in addition to ongoing fallout from scandals engulfing the Garda Síochána, we might well be going to the polls sooner rather than later. 

In this context, the recent comments on LPT by senior Government members could be interpreted as the opening gambit of an election campaign.

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