Councils will have powers to reduce or remove commercial rates for vacant premises

Minister warns of danger of two Irelands in economic activity, especially in town centres

Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan confirmed yesterday the Cabinet had agreed that local and European elections will be held on Friday May 23rd, in line with other EU member states and that polling stations will open from 7am to 10pm.

Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan confirmed yesterday the Cabinet had agreed that local and European elections will be held on Friday May 23rd, in line with other EU member states and that polling stations will open from 7am to 10pm.

Thu, Jan 23, 2014, 01:01


Local authorities will have discretion to reduce or remove the rates they charge for vacant commercial premises, the Dáil has heard.

It was one of a series of amendments from the Seanad to the Local Government Reform Bill, which was passed by the Dáil.

Amendments also allow for an increase in time to harmonise the annual rate of valuation in a local authority area from 10 years to a maximum of 20 years, where a specific case is made to the Minister for the Environment and Local Government.

The legislation also paves the way for the new electoral areas in next May’s local elections and reduces the number of councillors.

During the debate Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan confirmed yesterday the Cabinet had agreed that local and European elections will be held on Friday May 23rd, in line with other EU member states and that polling stations will open from 7am to 10pm.


Valuation
Government and opposition TDs commended the Minister for the amendments dealing with commercial rates. Mr Hogan said it was his view that local councillors “should have full control over the setting of the annual rateable valuation as quickly as possible”.

He said that was why he wanted to “bring forward this provision of circumstances where harmonisation in a specified area can extend beyond 10 years”. The Minister added that it was a matter for elected councillors to decide on their priorities “regarding whether they want to increase or reduce commercial rates”.

The Minister hoped “they will not impose additional burdens on employers and realise, based on their seeing competitive circumstances in neighbouring counties, that doing so would not be in the best interests of employment creation”.


Overhaul
Fianna Fáil environment spokesman Barry Cowen acknowledged the Minister’s efforts to address the issue but suggested that there should be a complete overhaul of the rates valuation system.

“It is and has been a crushing tool for many businesses throughout the country during their efforts to get back on their feet and retain business.”

The valuation system and mechanism used “are archaic to say the least. Rents have decreased by up to 70 per cent in many locations throughout the country, yet rates have not decreased to that extent.”

Waterford Fine Gael TD John Deasy agreed the system was archaic and he repeated his concerns about firms going out of business because they had to compete with companies operating over the internet with no physical premises and therefore no obligation to pay commercial rates.

He said “a number of departments have a stake in commercial rates valuation and there is insufficient co-ordination”.