FINE Gael councillor David Naughton is standing over his claim that some county councillors have actively encouraged people not to pay the household charge.
Cllr Naughton made the allegation at Monday’s county council meeting where councillors were told the council would now be docked a minimum of €453,000 as a result of a shortfall in collecting the household budget.
This figure had initially been estimated at €1.8m but the number of paying households has continued to rise and now stands at 63.4.%.
Provided that rises to 65% by mid-November, the council will incur a budget cut of €453.000. Otherwise, the penalty will be €542,000.
But when the matter came up for discussion on Monday, Cllr Naughton said some councillors were going door-to-door telling people not to pay.
“Name the councillors,” immediately demanded Fianna Fail’s Eddie Wade while Cllr Kevin Sheahan called on Cllr Naughton to withdraw the statement.
“The councillors who did it know who they are,” Cllr Naughton said. “Let the people doing it put up their hands.”
In response to his claims, Cllr Kevin Sheahan said Fianna Fail councillors would, within the week, undertake to make sworn declarations that they did not advise people not to pay the household charge.
“Let the other parties do their own stuff after that,” he said. But he appealed again to Cllr Naughton to withdraw “before the end of the meeting”. “These things have happened in the past where councillors make allegations and then withdraw them later and that is satisfactory.”
However, Cllr Naughton failed to withdraw his statement by the end of the meeting and repeated his claim outside the chamber. He again declined to name any councillors saying he did not have the privilege or immunity of the Dail.
He made it clear however that more than one councillor was involved.
“It could be any side of the house,” he said. “Any of the councillors who didn’t do it, I am happy,” he continued but if any councillor wanted to lie, “I am happy too. I won’t name them.”
But the people on whose doors they knocked knew who they were, he said. By arguing for non-payment, he said, they were taking money out of the council coffers while at the same time accepting pay from the council.
He was also concerned that some people were wrongly availing of the waiver scheme for unfinished estates. “It is now affecting our finances. I don’t think that’s acceptable,” he said.