Longford County Council is set to join other local authorities around the country in fighting against a revision of Global Valuations by the Government, which would see the council collecting up to €215,000 less than projected in rates payments for 2016.
Global Valuations concern the rates payable by companies with a presence in multiple counties, including utility service providers such as the ESB and mobile phone networks, with rates being set by central Government rather than each individual local authority.
At last week’s Statutory Local Authority Budget Meeting held at Áras an Chontae in Longford town, Acting Head of Finance Meave Killian informed elected members that the council executive had only been notified of the revision shortly before its Finance Department completed work on the 2016 budget. This news was met with widespread condemnation at the meeting.
County Council Cathaoirleach Cllr Gerry Warnock (Ind) responded to the development by saying it was unacceptable for the Government to be “throwing curveballs at us late in the day”.
Fianna Fáil’s group leader, Cllr Seamus Butler, added that “the amount has gone down sizeably and will have a disproportionate effect on small counties like Longford” and continued by stating that the rates system needs to be overhauled: “It’s a 19th century system unfit for purpose in the 21st century.”
Cllr Mark Casey (Ind) also criticised the Government’s timing of the announcement.
“It shows the disrespect they have for local government,” he said. “With limited resources, Maeve and her team have done a great job.”
Longford County Council CEO Tim Caffrey announced that he and colleagues from other local authorities would be contesting the changes.
Elsewhere, in her address to the chamber, Ms Killian also highlighted the high level of rates vacancies in Longford.
“Approximately 25 per cent of [commercial] properties are still vacant,” she explained. However, she added that the projected income from rates payments is higher than last year, with €8,134,844 expected to be collected in 2016, up from €7,844,459 in 2015. This figure represents 20.6 per cent of Longford County Council’s total income for the year.
It was also revealed that the Valuation Office has commenced the revaluation process for County Longford, which is expected to result in a fairer and more transparent process, which will spread the burden of rates more equitably among businesses. According to the budget document, the new valuations will come into effect in 2018.