Councils wipe off €500m in builders' debt
Developers still owe total of €750m in levies since 2008 property crash
FINE Gael TD Simon Harris, a member of the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee, has expressed fury that almost €500m in development levies has been "written off" as bad debt by councils, and has demanded answers as to why they have given up on so much money.
Developers, who "thrived under Fianna Fail" until the crash in 2008, still owe the taxpayer €750m in outstanding development levies, figures given to Mr Harris reveal.
But in response to Mr Harris' queries about the level of "bad debt provision" by councils across Ireland, Environment Minister Phil Hogan's department said the "collection of amounts due is a matter for each local authority to manage in light of prevailing local circumstances and in accordance with normal accountancy procedures".
The shocking county by county breakdown shows that in total there is €438m in "current" levies and €312m in "long term" levies outstanding, with almost €200m of the debt relating to development in the Dublin area.
According to the figures, in 2010, €225m was written off by county councils, while in 2011 some €252m of outstanding debt was wiped out.
Speaking yesterday, Mr Harris said: "The extremely large amount of money owed to local authorities by developers will come as a shock to taxpayers across this country.
"We now need answers from our local authorities about why such a large sum of money is outstanding, how much of this money they realistically expect to be in a position to recoup, and what processes are in place to ensure that developers pay the bills owed to the Irish taxpayer."
He added: "Development levies are meant to be paid upfront before any development commences.
"If councils came to arrangements with developers to pay levies on a phased basis then they clearly had a duty to ensure that these levies were paid. I am alarmed to see that more than €300m of outstanding levies have now been classified as 'long-term'."
He concluded: "Today's figures give a worrying insight into the lack of structures and controls in place in local authorities under the Fianna Fail-led government."