Dublin councillors remove rates refund for vacant properties

Green Party councillor describes now removed refund as perverse incentive for landlords with vacant premises

Businesses in Dublin are to be charged full rates for the first time even if their premises are vacant, following a resolution passed by Dublin city councillors.

Traditionally, ratepayers were entitled to a refund if their premises were vacant, which stood at 50 per cent from 1930 to 2017. In that year, three years after councillors were given the powers to determine the rate, it was reduced to 45 per cent, and this year to 15 per cent.

At a meeting to set the council’s budget for next year, councillors voted in favour of a Green Party motion to reduce the vacancy refund rate from 15 per cent to zero. The vote was 53 in favour and six against. The rate reduction will raise an additional €1.5 million which, the motion proposes, will be used to increase the discretionary budget of local area offices.

Green Party councillor Michael Pigeon described the refund as a perverse incentive for landlords with vacant premises and said the extra money should be made available for local areas to spend as they wish. Council chief executive Owen Keegan had proposed maintaining the refund at 15 per cent.


Other parties also favoured reducing the refund to zero, with Fianna Fáil proposing spending the extra money on bulky waste collection and Fine Gael on enterprise supports.

Fire Brigade

Sinn Féin proposed that the council pay the €1,000 Covid-19 pandemic payment to members of Dublin Fire Brigade but officials said the setting of pay rates was an executive function not a reserved one.

After agreeing to reduce the vacancy refund rate to zero, the council approved the 2023 budget for the city without a vote.

Mr Keegan said the budget was €1.24 billion, an increase of €110 million over this year. Housing and building was the service with the largest spend at €550 million.

He said the estimated cost of energy and non-energy inflation for this year and next would amount to €37.5 million. The Government has provided the council with €5 million to help towards rising energy costs.

Mr Keegan acknowledged that councillors “have made their decision”, as allowed under law, to reduce the local property tax by 15 per cent, but he said this ensured there was no funding for enhanced or additional services next year.

While the maintenance of existing service levels, along with modest increases in some areas was a satisfactory outcome, “it is disappointing that the city council will not be able to respond to the many legitimate demands for improvements in the services it provides and for new services to meet the needs of the city, and all those who live, work or visit the city”.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.