COUNCIL URGED TO DO MORE ON RATES
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.