A number of community creches have been hit with legal letters by Longford County Council over the non payement of commercial rates, it has emerged.
Some who have incurred charges are now struggling to meet their repayments, the Leader has learned, with one creche carrying arrears of €18,000.
The topic, some of which featured in a recent edition of the Leader’s ‘Letters to the Editor’ page, attracted much debate at last week’s county council meeting.
Cllr Mark Casey (Ind), said it was unacceptable the threat of legal action was hanging over community childcare organisations when over a dozen other counties were not even enforcing rate demands.
“It’s wrong that this is happening,” he said. “We are enabling young people to go out and work, but any increase in running costs would have a knock on effect to the cost of placing a child in one of these facilities.”
The Abbott employee continued his address by reading out a letter by Environment Minister Phil Hogan, the contents of which seemed to support calls for a blanket waiver to be given to community creches.
In reply, Co Manager Tim Caffrey said despite what other counties may or may not be doing, the council were only following the terms set out in the Valuation Act, 2001.
He said he had every sympathy with the worries laid out by council members and agreed to postpone the threat of legal action until certainty is provided from government chiefs.
“Personally I agree 100 per cent with what the members are saying.
“A common sense approach has got to be adopted but as the law states, we (council) have to uphold the law,” he said.
Cllr Barney Steele welcomed the manager’s comments but revealed a number of creches were struggling to meet their repayments and were now in arrears.
“Some of these people would be worried that while we wait for clarity, their arrears will keep mounting,” he said.
Mr Caffrey, however, said for the time being and until clarity is secured, arrears on such establishments would stand.