Council 'losing out on €1.4m in rates'
Sligo County Council is losing out on a potential windfall of €1.4m annually because it doesn't collect rates on vacant premises according to Councillor Declan Bree.
He told the May monthly meeting of the Council: "While there has been an improvement in the rates collection in Sligo I see that the National Oversight and Audit Commission indicates that the Council collection revenue for commercial rates is still 6% below the average
"According to legislation rates are payable on all commercial property. However, to my knowledge this Council is unique in that it does not collect any rates from the owners of vacant commercial properties or shops.
"When a property is vacant, the owner can seek a partial rates refund from the Council if the owner shows that the property was available for letting or the property was undergoing alteration, renovations or repairs. However, as Sligo County Council does not collect rates from the owners of vacant commercial properties, we have no refund scheme and there is no way we can bring pressure on the owners of vacant properties to make their premises available for rent.
"This is at a time when Sligo town has one of the highest levels of vacant retail and commercial properties in the country. People interested in establishing new businesses tell me that owners of vacant properties are seeking rents which are astronomical. Numerous properties on our main streets have remained vacant for years because their owners do not have to pay rates.
"If the rates were collected from the owners of vacant commercial properties in Sligo it would amount to in excess of €2.1 million. And, if the Council introduced a policy to refund 33% of the rates collected on vacant properties it could still have provided the Council with a potential additional income of in excess of €1.4million per year.
"At the last budget meeting when I proposed the Council collect the rates in respect of all commercial property in Sligo and prepare a draft Refund Scheme, the Executive of this Council advised councillors not to support my motion, and it was defeated.
"I find it unacceptable that banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions and businesses who own vacant properties can get away without paying rates."