Councillors voiced their dismay and annoyance over the valuation system for business rates in Leitrim at this week’s council meeting.
w4,141,356 was collected from businesses last year; the rate of collection was up 2% to 66% this year. The rates now make up 15% of the council’s total income.
There are 1,216 rateable properties in Leitrim; payments have increased because the council has improved payment plans and encouraged rate payers to ease their arrears. But many businesses are still in arrears.
The Dromahair/Drumkeerin area had the best rate of collection with 82.06% while the Ballinamore/ Drumshanbo/Keshcarrigan area had the worst with just 42.58% compliance.
Cllrs Enda McGloin and Gordon Hughes queried the variance, and were told that it was due to some big businesses not paying in time. Cllr McGloin said there has been “dismay” at the level of rates and local businesses have been forced to close because they could not pay.
Cathaoirleach Sean McDermott said “rates are crucifying small businesses.”
Cllr Enda Stenson asked if a business which is now only using half of the property could have a reduction of rates. He said he knows “more businesses will close this year” if the rates do not decrease.
Cllrs Martin Kenny and John Ward called for changes in the valuation system. They both outlined that online businesses are getting away without having to pay rates.
Cllr Kenny said “€6 billion was spent online at Christmas.” Cllr Ward said he knows a business that opened in Carrick but was forced to close because of rates. They “now do business online.”
County Manager, Martin Dolan said the council must “implement what is there.” He said they receive the rates value from the Valuation Office and the council’s “hands are tied.”
Cllr Gerry Reynolds said the valuation system is “grossly unfair.” Cllr Sean McGowan said that rates should be on the turnover of business, not on the size of the property.
Cllr McGloin proposed the Council send on their issues to the Minister ahead of a new bill to change the rates system.