Full collection ‘simply unrealistic’ - Manager

Laois businesses did not pay thrates to the tune of €2.631 million in 2011.

Laois businesses did not pay thrates to the tune of €2.631 million in 2011.

Just under a quarter of rates due to county hall went unpaid which increased the debt owed to Laois County Council by €715,000 from the previous year.

Coupled with just a 55 per cent payment of commercial water rates, businesses owed €4.176 million to the council by the end of last year.

Director of Services for Finance Gerry Murphy says the debt may continue to climb “until businesses get back on their feet”.

“In the interim, our arrears will continue, but they will slow down, we will shortly come to the end of that loan spiral,” he said at last week’s council meeting.

He urged business owners to come and negotiate their payments.

“If people have a difficulty, they can come and talk to us. Anyone that owes money, will be examined individually. We are doing interest only loans, we are working for every single person in difficulty,” he said.

He was asked by councillors for a breakdown on businesses but said he didn’t have that figure.

“There are a lot of people paying. Sometimes I wonder how a publican in a certain area can pay and others can’t,” he commented.

County Manager Peter Carey said it was unrealistic to expect full payment of commercial rates.

“We collect roughly €10 million a year. I’d love to see a situation of 100 per cent payment, but that’s simply unrealistic.

“We are dealing with businesses struggling from day to day. We are doing payment plans and taking phased payments, that’s very acceptable to me.

“In the situation that prevails, this is very much an acceptable performance over the year in question,” he said.

The council wrote off over €765,000 of that debt for 2011, broken down to €535,774 of the commercial rates shortfall, and €229,802 in unpaid water charges.