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Wednesday 1 October 2014

Local authorities write off €161m as tally of unpaid charges nears €1bn

Paul Melia Environment Correspondent

Published 12/03/2014 | 02:30

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Water charges are part of the €1bn

LOCAL authorities are owed almost €1bn in unpaid charges but have been forced to write off millions because the debts are no longer collectable.

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Householders and businesses owe €588m to city and county councils in unpaid rates, water charges, housing rents and loans, the local government auditor has found.

In addition, €360m is owed in development levies, bringing the amounts outstanding to €948m.

However, councils have written off €161m in unpaid debts because the money cannot be collected.

This is due to companies going out of business and "poor collection performance".

The report says:

* A total €356m is owed in commercial rates, with just 76pc of bills paid. The arrears rose by 10pc between 2011 and 2012. The lowest collection rates are in Louth and Limerick City (55pc each), and the highest rate is in Offaly (92pc). Around €143m has been written off.

* Another €56m is owed in unpaid housing rents, with €1.9m written off. The lowest collection rate is in South Dublin (74pc), and the highest is in North Tipperary (99pc).

* There has been a fall in commercial water arrears, down €10m to €139m. Around €16m was written off. Just 56pc of businesses pay their charges, with the lowest collection rates in Leitrim (27pc), and the highest rate in South Tipperary (83pc).

* Housing loan arrears have risen by €6m to €37m, with €400,000 written off. Average collection rates are 71pc, falling to a low of 47pc in Westmeath and a high of 90pc in Fingal.

The auditor expressed concern about development levies, saying there was a need for "close monitoring" and for site inspections to be carried out.

LEVIES

This is to ensure that developments do not go ahead without the required levies having been paid.

Although €360m is owed, local authorities have made provision to write-off two-thirds of the amount outstanding, or €232m.

Irish Independent

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