MORE than 2,000 people on social welfare payments or low incomes will be forced to pay for their refuse bin collections next year.
Only pensioners and those on disability will be eligible for the bin waiver scheme in 2016, leaving low income households such as the unemployed, lone parents and those on blind and widows’ pensions facing bills of anything up to €250.
The move comes as Fine Gael and Fianna Fail councillors voted through a budget which includes €510,000 for the waiver scheme, almost €250,000 short of what it cost to run this year.
Approximately 5,500 people were eligible for either the city waiver or the county waiver scheme this year but under the new rules, this is expected to drop to about 3,200. On Monday, during the second day of debate on the 2016 council budget, both Labour and the Anti-Austerity Alliance put forward proposals to save the scheme.
Labour’s Cllr Frank Daly proposed that rates be increased by 2.75% and that an additional €291,000 be set aside for bin waivers. This, he said, would allow another group of people to benefit in addition to pensioners and those on disability.
Cllr Cian Prendiville, AAA, accused Fine Gael and Fianna Fail of targeting the most vulnerable and protecting the richest.
“We outlined how the full waiver in the city could be defended and in fact extended to the county by simply adding a two per cent increase in the rates for the top two per cent of big businesses, or about 120 businesses,” he said.
Under their proposal, small and medium businesses would be protected from any rates increase through a rebate system, he explained. “Despite our appeals, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael refused to include our proposal,” he said, also condemning the fact that council tenants will have to pay full property tax in 2016.
Fianna Fail’s Cllr Eddie Ryan argued that a bin waiver scheme was really an issue for the Department of Social Protection and not a local authority.
Limerick is the only local authority operating a waiver scheme, he said, and he called for it to be scrapped and phased out over three years. However, he later withdrew this proposal.
Meanwhile, Limerick Chamber of Commerce has welcomed the fact that the rates increase voted through was just 2.03% and not the 4.5% originally suggested.
The increase was necessary, councillors were told, to offset the shortfall of €2.45m following a revaluation of rates earlier this year. A last minute compensation of €1.19m from the government was not sufficient to plug the gap.
But the proposed increase of 2% was only reached after long haggling sessions between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail. It was a compromise, Cllr James Collins FF said.
A Sinn Fein motion calling on the government to make up the full deficit of €2.45m was unanimously passed.