Dublin City Council proposals will deliver more Dubliners into poverty

The 52 member Dublin City Council (DCC) will vote this evening on its 2010 budget which, combined with last week’s budget cuts, will worsen living standards for Dubliners already living in poverty and threaten to take thousands more into poverty. The People Before Profit Alliance (PPA) is urging Independent and Labour councillors to oppose the measures which will be introduced tonight at the DCC estimates meeting. With 10 and 18 councillors each respectively, Fine Gael and Labour together hold a majority in the council.

According to Joan Collins, a Dublin City Councillor with PPA, it is proposed that rent be increased by €2 per person per week for the first three tenants in a council house. The measure could increase the annual rent of a council house by up to €312 per year while rents in private sector housing are decreasing. This proposal follows an increase in March of this year of €1 per month on subsidiary earners living in a house (the main earner in a house was exempt).

Dublin City Council said that these details (and the details below) could not be confirmed until after tonight’s meeting. However, an employee in the housing division of DCC said that proposed rent hikes are almost certain.

A second measure being proposed is to increase bin charges by 5 per cent. It is estimated that this will net DCC €1.8 million. Joan Collins says the increase runs counter to the government’s argument that the country is in a deflationary period, the justification behind cuts in social welfare.

A third measure is to do away with the waiver on "lift" charges on refuse collection for 40,000 houses, a move which could cost social welfare recipients, pensioners and people on low incomes up to €208 per year. The "lift" charge and the annual standing charge for refuse collection had been waived for qualifying householdes since bin charges were introduced in 2001. Joan Collins says the DCC estimates a saving of €4.7 by abolishing the waiver on lift charges. (More details on bin charges here.)

It is understood that the Dublin Fire Service is to be cut by €14 million. Joan Collins says that “the service is already under huge pressure” in meeting demands, and that the trade unions representing the service (IMPACT and SIPTU) have met with DCC to try and avert the proposal. Politico.ie is awaiting a response from the Dublin Fire Service as to how such a cut would affect services.

It is also feared that further cuts will be made to community services such as meals on wheels; further details are not available for this.

A two per cent decrease in commercial rates is expected in the proposals, which translates to a €7m cost to DCC. PPA will propose at tonight’s meeting that DCC forgo both the commercial rates proposal (€7m cost to the council) and the abolition of the waiver (€4.7m cost to council tenants), and that a €2.3m relief fund be created for small to medium businesses who may claim the two per cent commercial rate reduction.

According to the Irish Times, "councillors can vote to amend the budget but cannot pass any amendments that would result in a net reduction in funding for the city".

The proposals being put forward tonight are thought to be spurred by a €15m reduction in government finance to DCC. Social Justice Ireland said of Brian Lenihan's budget: "Without social welfare payments 43% of Ireland’s population would be in poverty. After social welfare payments are made that number is now down to 14.4%. Increases in social welfare rates in recent years made all the difference. Changes in social welfare rates mean these gains will be reversed."

It continued: "People living in poverty (1 in seven of the total population, 18% of children) are being asked to endure greater deprivation. This is unjust and unfair".

The DCC proposals tonight amplify this unfairness.