Kildare County Council “switching off lights but taking charges”

Kildare County Council has been accused of giving instructions to terminate public lighting services in 85 different estates across the county.

Kildare County Council has been accused of giving instructions to terminate public lighting services in 85 different estates across the county.

“These estates were quite literally left in the dark, in terms of lighting but also in terms of information,” according to Fianna Fail area representative James Lawless.

He claimed the affected estates are in areas including in Caragh, Celbridge, Sallins and Suncroft.

Mr. Lawless got the having made a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

At the same time, he said less than half of these estates have been granted exemption status against the household charge tax.

“The exemption is supposed to apply to unfinished estates - on the one hand we are being told the cutoff estates are not finished and will no longer be serviced by the council - on the other hand we are being told they do not qualify as unfinished as far as the tax is concerned and they are considered liable to pay the household charge - to pay for local services which they do not even receive,” he explained

He said KCC’s decision is not consistent because some estates not taken in charge continue to receive the service whilst others in the same boat have been cutoff.

“A handful of the cutoff estates have received exemptions but the vast majority have not. In most cases they are being asked pay their household charge but simultaneously told as far as council maintenance goes the estate is unfinished. It makes no sense,” added Mr. Lawless..

He said the council should either consider these estates unfinished in which case they grant household charge exemptions immediately to all 85. Or else they collect the charge but resume service provision.

“They cannot take the peoples money with one hand and cut off their services with the other.”

KCC spokeswoman Annette Aspell said the council only maintains and pays for the electricity supply for public lighting in estates in the charge of KCC.

“It appears that in the past ESB Contracts added estates to the council’s maintenance list as soon as they were completed and, it seems, without KCC’s knowledge or permission.”

She said it is imperative that public money is focused on public assets (roads and services that are in the charge of the council).

In the case of housing estates that are not in the charge of KCC, the responsibility lies with the developer, liquidator or receiver to maintain the public lights. As soon as the housing estate is taken in charge the responsibility moves to the local authority.

- Paul O’Meara.