THE DIFICULTIES which local authorities face in collecting money due from commercial rates, water charges and the property tax has emerged as a major issue for council's trying to balance their finances.
The problem was raised by Cllr Mark Dearey as Dundalk Town Council considered its annual budget. He praised the 1 per cent reduction in the commercial rate as 'very significant', saying it would habe to be a real help and encouragement to business people and he hoped the reduction in payparking would encourage more people to come into town. These were 'very proactive' measures by the council and should be supported by local businesses, whom he urged to pay their rates.
He was concerned at the low level of rate collection and wondered if the rate got so low that others would simply look and say that they wouldn't pay.
'I think anyone who can pay should pay, even if it is a struggle,' he said.
Noting that the council didn't have the same collection powers as the Revenue Commission, he felt this was something which probably needed to be reviewed.
Enquiring as to what was the local collection rate for the household charge, he said it would have been fairer if the local authority was still the one collecting it and that the money collected should be spent locally.
Chairperson Cllr Jennifer Green noted that 42% of people hadn't paid the household charge but it seemed like the government was going to come down on them ' like a ton of bricks'.
Town Clerk Mr Frank Pentony detailled the actions taken by the council to collect commercial rates, saying that that 57 cases had gone to court and six premises had closed since they took legal action.
However, he stressed, the council was prepared to work with rate payers who were experiencing difficulties and some were now paying by direct debit or standing order and they would facilitate those who wanted to pay by installments.
He appealed to rate payers to understand that the council has difficulties as well with cash flow problems.