Sunday 19 January 2020

Vacant premises could raise €2.3m in rates

Ciara Galvin

Sligo has the highest rate of empty commercial properties in the country and as we enter a New Year will that unwanted tag still be applicable.

One county councillor, Declan Bree feels he has an answer to an issue that becomes fairly obvious after a quick walk through the town centre.

Sligo Tidy Towns has done a great job in masking the problem with a makeover of some of the more unsightly premises but this is merely covering over the cracks as it were.

Given that Sligo County Council continues to have the highest accumulated deficit on its Revenue account (€19.5million) according to Cllr Bree, the Independent local representative says he fails to understand why the council are not collecting rates from the owners of long term vacant commercial properties in the town.

Cllr Bree had tabled a motion seeking the council to collect the rates in respect of all commercial property and to prepare a draft Refund Scheme which will allow the council to refund 33% of the rates on vacant properties in the Borough District of Sligo.

In addition to this, Cllr Bree was seeking for the sum of €1 million as additional income from commercial rates in the Budget for 2020 and for the introduction of the Long Term Vacant Property Incentive Scheme to promote job creation and employment in Sligo.

Cllr Bree expressed his disappointment at the motion not being carried. “I had hoped to convince others to support the motion, and pointed out that a lot of other councils such as Roscommon, Leitrim and Longford have adopted it.”

Asked why colleagues did not support the motion, Cllr Bree said he believes the Council Executive were discouraging his colleagues from supporting it.

At the recent council meeting the Independent councillor referenced one example in putting forward the need for such a scheme, citing a premises at the junction of Grattan Street/O’Connell Street, which has been vacant for almost 10 years.

“I understand that it is in the ownership of a building society or bank. The rates due on the ground floor of that premises is approximately €7,000 per year. And the owners of that premises are getting off scot free, year after year – not paying a cent in rates. And the same is happening with so many other vacant premises in town.”

According to the councillor if the council introduced a policy to refund 33% of the rates collected on the vacant commercial properties in the Borough District of Sligo, it could provide the local authority with an additional income of up to €1million per year.

“An extra €1million income per year would provide this council with an opportunity to improve local services and increase financial assistance to numerous voluntary associations residents groups and arts organisations in the town and county."

Sligo Champion