The Sligo Champion - - NEWS - By SOR­CHA CROW­LEY

SLIGO County Coun­cil­lors have re­jected a mo­tion pro­posed by In­de­pen­dent Coun­cil­lor De­clan Bree call­ing on the Coun­cil to col­lect rates from all com­mer­cial prop­erty and to in­tro­duce a Long Term Va­cant Prop­erty In­cen­tive Scheme.

Cllr Bree put for­ward the mo­tion on rates at the an­nual bud­get meet­ing held yes­ter­day (Mon­day).

“I am dis­ap­pointed that pro­vi­sion has not been in­cluded in the bud­get for at least an ad­di­tional €1mil­lion in­come in rates from banks, in­sur­ance com­pa­nies and other own­ers of va­cant com­mer­cial prop­er­ties. Why are the own­ers of va­cant prop­er­ties in Sligo get­ting off-scot free with­out pay­ing a cent in rates?” he asked.

In 2014 leg­is­la­tion was passed to give dis­cre­tion to coun­cils to vary the level of rates re­funds that ap­ply. Cllr Bree ac­cused the Coun­cil of fail­ing to col­lect rates from the own­ers of va­cant com­mer­cial prop­er­ties.

He said if the Coun­cil in­tro­duced a pol­icy to re­fund 33 per cent of the rates col­lected on va­cant prop­er­ties it would pro­vide the Coun­cil with an ad­di­tional in­come of up to €1 mil­lion per year, which would pro­vide the Coun­cil with “an op­por­tu­nity to im­prove lo­cal ser­vices and in­crease fi- nan­cial as­sis­tance to numer­ous vol­un­tary or­gan­i­sa­tions and res­i­dents groups in the town and county.”

“The busi­ness peo­ple in Sligo who are com­ply­ing with the law and pay­ing their rates ex­pect this Coun­cil to treat all com­mer­cial prop­erty own­ers eq­ui­tably,” he said.

Chief Ex­ec­u­tive of the Coun­cil, Ciarán Hayes, said rate col­lec­tion in Sligo had risen from 59 per cent in 2013 to 77 per cent in 2017. “That’s quite a con­sid­er­able im­prove­ment with re­strict­ing re­sources,” he pointed out.

“There’s an un­der­ly­ing as­sump­tion in the mo­tion that the rates are payable from va­cant prop­er­ties. Rates are not paid be­cause there is lit­tle or no money there to pay them,” he told the mem­bers.

“The in­crease in rev­enue of €1 mil­lion is go­ing back into the realm of fan­tasy bud­gets. It would be com­pletely ir­re­spon­si­ble to put in €1 mil­lion of rates which are not col­lectable,” he added.

“Ac­cord­ing to the law, rates are payable,” replied Cllr Bree. “Other coun­cils do it - they ad­here to the leg­is­la­tion. The Chief Ex­ec­u­tive in­di­cated that this might be fan­tasy, I’m not propos­ing we spend this €1 mil­lion on any project but it would go to re­duc­ing the deficit. We have noth­ing to lose and up to €1 mil­lion to gain,” he said. The mo­tion went to a vote, with only Cllrs Bree, Chris MacManus and Hu­bert Keaney vot­ing in favour.

Cathaoir­leach Martin Baker and Cllrs Marie Casserly, Keith Henry, Seamus Kil­gan­non, Jerry Lundy, Sinead Maguire, Ros­aleen O’Grady, Joe Queenan and Paul Tay­lor voted against the mo­tion.

Cllrs Michael Clarke and Mar­garet Gorm­ley ab­stained from the vote. Cllrs Gino O’Boyle, Thomas Healy, Dara Mul­vey, Tom MacSharry were ab­sent at the time.

Cllr De­clan Bree.

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