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Householders ignore €500 fire service call-out charges

FAMILIES are ignoring the controversial €500 call-out fee for fire brigades in their droves. Dublin city officials had hoped to help offset their budget problems with the new charge but it seems that householders are turning a blind eye to invoices.



In the first three-and-a-half months of its introduction just €12,350 out of €101,860 has been collected.

Authorities say that they are not overly worried by the massive shortfall as the "whole concept is new to people".

They haveno plans to start issuing fines but people are sent reminders.

The figures will worry public representatives who are faced with the task of deciding where the budget axe will fall for city services.

The new charges force householders to pay fees of €500 for the first hour Dublin fire brigade attends a blaze.

The €500 levy also applies when the fire officers are called to tackle a chimney fire or respond to a 999 emergency only to find it is a false alarm.

The fee rises to €610 for the first hour attending a road traffic incident. And for every subsequent hour, charges of €450 to €485 apply for each tender.

City Manager John Tierney confirmed: "Up to the end of April 2012, 184 invoices have been issued in relation to domestic callouts amounting to €101,860. To date, €12,350 has been collected."

Clare Crosbie, a senior staff officer overseeing the issue at Dublin City Council, warned that while penalties would not be imposed on those who did not pay, other avenues would be explored to ensure money was recouped.

"If anybody has difficulty paying €500 up front, we make arrangements for them to pay in instalments.

"At the moment, the procedure is people are receiving reminders. We haven't yet considered fining, and we won't be fining, but we will be looking at what other options we will pursue should people not pay up."



Taxes

The intention from the beginning was that people would claim this on their insurance policy, but that message is only filtering out now.

Irish Insurance Federation non-life manager Michael Horan condemned the charges as a double taxation, but confirmed that insurance policies would cover the charge.

"Fire brigade charges are covered under household insurance policies. People are already paying for the fire service through taxes so with these fees you're being charged a second time," he said.

Homes without insurance are dealt with case by case.

Dublin City Council insists the decision to introduce charges was not taken lightly, but was necessary.

kdoyle@herald.ie