Rates collection methods may have to change

The contentious issue of rates collection in the county town was discused during Longford Town Council’s budget meeting last week.

The contentious issue of rates collection in the county town was discused during Longford Town Council’s budget meeting last week.

Mark McNerney, Administrative Officer, Longford Town Council told the meeting that the collection of rates in the current economic climate had proved “challenging”.

“The expenditure side of things has increased by €100,000 on the same period last year and we are going to have to try and collect whatever income we can,” he explained further.

“Rates collection is a challenge and we are finding it very difficult to collect rates at the moment.

“We have to try and help people to make more flexible payments and we need to bring in all the income that we can right now.”

“Well, I don’t want to be the devil’s advocate here, but how much money have we spent on sending out solicitor’s letters to those who haven’t paid their rates?”, a disgruntled Cllr Paul Connell (Ind) quizzed.

“Rates are necessary, but there are difficulties with them.”

Cllr Gerry Warnock (Ind) and Cllr Michael Connellan (FF) then put forward the argument that the current difficulties surrounding the collection of rates was down to the legislation governing the matter.

“There is no doubt that the legislation needs to be changed in relation to this matter,” Cllr Connellan explained.

“The necessary change would see the whole rates issue being dealt with differently at local level.”

In response to the various matters raised, Mr McNerney said that the legal route was always the last option taken by the town authority and he pointed to other methods.

“The legal route is always a last resort,” he added.

“It is a matter that we only use as a last resort and is not something that this authority takes lightly.

“We are under no statutory obligation to go down the legal route with regards to rates and with regards to court proceedings there have been various responses and results to this.

“There are some businesses, who traditionally, pay their rates at the end of the year, so overall there will have to be a more flexible approach adopted.”

Cllr Mae Sexton told the meeting: “There is an onus on us to support the business people of this town and it something that we need to do more of.”