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September 14, 2009


James Conran

Certainly we have always had remarkably weak local government structures in Ireland and this is probably a bad thing. And the absence of autonomous funding is clearly a part of that.

But what about the potential anti-progressive implications of devolving revenue-raising from central to local level? Isn't there a danger that wealthier areas where people are less dependent on public services opt for a lower tax/lower services equilibrium, whereas poorer areas are forced to bear the fiscal burden of their greater need/desire for services?

On the other hand, if you institute some kind of mechanism to equalise revenue across local authorities, not only do you undermine the gain in democracy, you might also encourage councils to set lower taxes than they otherwise would in the expectation they will benefit from such a mechanism.


"Actually, I didn’t know we had ‘national employment policies’ – if anyone know about them, please let me know."

I suppose that depends on what constitutes a policy. There is chapter 4 of this:


Given that most of our government's economic advisors are US trained then the idea of a county and even a municipal tax should not be too alien to them.

Unfortunately our LAs were financially locked in to suburban sprawl via their main revenue sources of development levies, motor tax and parking charges.

A tax that is linked to public services and administered democratically should be something people would accept.


"if we aspire to something more – a modern local government regime, democratically accountable and armed with new powers and responsibility"

You know, in theory, I would say I am all for real democracy with real powers at the local level. However, and it is a huge 'however', when I look at how County Councillors have been using the few real powers they do have -- zoning decisions -- I think my theory is too risky to apply to our political class: Councillor Patrick O'Donoghue in Co Kerry, FF and some FG councillors in County Dublin

Michael Taft

James, you're correct - and these points would be relevant whether one is arguing for a property-tax-base, income tax-base, some other base or a hybrid of the above. I suspect that the relationship between local and central governments is always fraught, with each ultimately competing with each other over a finite amount of resources (and struggling to be the one not taking the biggest cut in terms of levying high taxation). It would be helpful in future discussions on local government to see how other systems work these problems. I'll try to do that when the issue arises again (and try to go beyond just the UK experience).

Paul, you're right that we have to go beyond the limited property-related charges that local government relies on. Hopefully, spreading the range of taxes will have a corresponding effect on policy - a big ask, I admit.

Especially when one can't be but sympathetic to Tipster's concern about the antic of local councillors. All I can say, Tipster, is that local government finance reform must go hand in hand with structural reform. Personally, I favour a higher tier to enact these reforms (is it really efficient to have four different tax-setting authorities in Dublin?). But that's the subject of another post - and a much more difficult one.

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