A COUNCIL has clashed with a district court judge over claims that high commercial rates are forcing businesses to close.
Judge Olann Kelleher warned Cork District Court that something had to be done about high rates given that half of some city streets had nothing but shuttered businesses.
The judge pointed out that he had 170 rates arrears cases listed before him in one court session, with 200 more expected before Christmas.
"As I walk down South Mall half the place is empty and Oliver Plunkett Street is the same. At what stage do you look at it and say, 'What are we going to do about rates?' We are hitting rates at such a height that we are closing businesses," he said.
However, City Manager Tim Lucey pointed out that the council, one of the biggest in Ireland, has not increased its commercial rates since 2008.
Over the past four years Cork, like other Irish councils, has seen its Government funding cut by 30pc (€8.6m).
It has also managed to slash its wage bill by 16pc since 2008.
"It is not in the interests of the council to seek the closure of businesses which are the sources of municipal funding," said Mr Lucey.
"Judge Kelleher's remarks give the impression that the council is wedded to litigation as a means of ensuring payment.
"Of the 170 rates cases before Judge Kelleher, orders were not sought with regard to 96 because the council believes that viable arrangements can be put in place between it and the ratepayers to enable payment to be made," he said.