Longford District Court
A local businessman who appeared before Longford District Court last week at the behest of Longford Co Council to pay his commercial rates was ordered by the presiding judge to pay the sum of €6,535 to the local authority following a hearing into the matter.
Eric Murray, Payless Fuels, Cartronageeragh Business Park, Athlone Road, Longford appeared before Judge Seamus Hughes on foot of an application from Longford Co Council to pay three years worth of commercial rates.
Outlining the evidence in the case to the court, Ray Murphy, Longford Co Council said that the local authority was seeking the payment of rates in respect of Mr Murphy’s business premises at Cartrongeara, Longford.
The local authority, he added, took legal proceedings against the plaintiff because he failed to act after he was served with a six day demand notice which was served on him by Longford Co Council back in August 2016.
“A further demand was sent by letter on August 29, 2016 and Mr Murray currently has three years of outstanding rates.”
Meanwhile, the court was told that commercial rates for the premises were fixed at €6,535 per year because there was three years payment outstanding with the total amount now owed by Mr Murray totalling €19,605.
“Longford Co Council is asking for a judgement for and for costs in these proceedings,” Mr Murphy told the Judge.
Representing himself during proceedings last Tuesday, Mr Murray asked the local authority’s representative why his rates of €6,535 per annum were double that for similar sized units in other parts of the country.
“The local authority sets the law with regards to rates,” Mr Murphy then told the court, before pointing out that it relied upon the Poor Law and Union Law 1830 to set and collect commercial rates in Longford.
Judge Hughes then asked what Longford Co Council’s percentage revenue collection rate was and he was informed by Mr Murphy that last year the local authority succeeded in collecting 82% of what was was owed by commercial operators.
“Do you accept that for some ratepayers it is difficult for them to pay their rates in full,” the Judge added.
Mr Murphy said the local authority was well aware of this and as a result had put a payment plan in place for hard pressed local business owners.
“When ratepayers make a genuine effort, we will work with them,” Mr Murphy continued.
“But for those who make no effort at all we issued legal proceedings.”
Judge Hughes then asked what rates payments were used for.
“The rates that are paid provide a wide range of services across the county including library services for example, as well as roads, lighting and footpaths,” said Mr Murphy.
“There is less and less funding coming from central government so local authorities are under pressure to collect rates so that services can be provided county wide.”
In response to this Mr Murray said that it seemed very unfair to him that those who paid commercial rates were provided with the same services as those who didn’t.
“I don’t get anything other than the services provided to everyone else and I pay commercial rates,” he fumed, before pointing out that people like him had to pay commercial rates to that non ratepayers could enjoy all the services that were provided.
The court was then told that in essence everyone now paid rates as the household charge which was introduced a couple of years ago was paid by everyone.
Meanwhile, during his deliberations on the matter, Judge Hughes said that he admired Mr Murray’s tenacity throughout.
“It’s not easy to fight a case as a civilian, particularly in cases where the local authority has the right to collect rates owed to them,” the Judge added.
He subsequently granted the judgement in the sum of €6,535 in favour of Longford Co Council and also awarded costs against Mr Murray.