‘Computer illiterate’ residents of North Clare have been “abandoned” by the policy of making motor taxation services solely available online.
North Clare representatives, Cllr Shane Talty (FF), Cllr Joe Killeen (FF) and Cllr Susan Crawford (GP) called for “an immediate full reinstatement of over the counter motor taxation services at the Ennistymon area office. This service should be returned to the level of service available at the beginning of 2020”.
Administrative officer, Fiona Mooney in a written response noted that the amount of personnel renewing their motor tax online had been growing prior to the change in service in March. The county is currently ranked fifteenth out of twenty seven for the amount of people that use this option. There are no plans to reinstate the services in Ennistymon in the current climate, she confirmed.
“By January 2020, 72 percent of all motor tax in Clare was done online and the remaining 28 percent of business was carried out in the Ennis or Ennistymon motor tax office,” she added. The figure rose to a peak of 91 percent in April and most recent figures which are from July standing at 83 percent.
Prior to the pandemic, Clare County Council rationalised the provision of over the counter sales of motor tax discs in Ennis. An assisted motor tax online service was established in Ennistymon instead of the over the counter sales, similar to the model followed in Scariff and Kilrush.
Councillors had agreed to the change in the Ennistymon but on the proviso that customers would be facilitated in the office to complete necessary steps online, Cllr Talty recalled. He stated that an alteration soon followed where a personal email address was required, “the people paying by cash don’t have an email”.
He added, “These people are resorting to friends, family and relatives doing this for them, clearly they will get it renewed but they are falling back on others to do it. We’re abandoning these people on one hand, I don’t think it is the correct way for local authorities to treat people”.
Talty said that instances had occurred whereby people were paying others to complete the act for them with credit and debit cards also borrowed.
Frustration on the thinking of the local authority was voiced by Cllr Crawford. “It is important to emphasise, we don’t want to disenfranchise older people or people who are not computer literate. Have we learned anything from COVID? Allow people the scope to meet other people when they are completing services”.
A change to the current policy is needed, Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG) stated. “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. We need to be looking outside the box at the value of the engagement between people in rural areas”.