Councillors have demanded a breakdown of the commercial water charges that went unpaid by Laois businesses in 2011, leaving a shortfall of over €1.5 million in the council coffers.
An independent auditor of Laois County Council’s accounts said the level of payment at 55 per cent “continued to be very unsatisfactory”, The council wrote off €230,000 of water rates last year, but said this is only done when there is “no possiblity of collecting the debt”.
County Manager Peter Carey agreed that 55 per cent wouldn’t be satisfactory, but said the real figure could be at 75 per cent, as a quarter of the bills are not issued till the following year.
“We are dealing on a daily basis with businesses who are saying they can either pay the rates or the water. nobody is being let off, we are dealing individually with each case, devising payment plans,” he said, thanking his debt collection staff for their work.
Cllr Willie Aird and Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald asked what was the percentage of part payments.
“People could be in a position to pay a quarter or half. I get people saying to me, so and so hasn’t paid for the last three years. There’s people that can’t pay, they haven’t got the money,” Cllr Aird said.
Cllr Brendan Phelan also requested a breakdown.
“Every second person is not paying. If this new water bill is handled on the same basis, it doesn’t look well,” he said.
Cllr Marty Phelan believed the national figure to be lower, at 53 per cent.
“In Ballacolla if we didn’t collect it, we wouldn’t be able to run our water services, so who’s getting away with it?” he queried.
The audit showed that in 2010, just 51 per cent of commercial water rates were paid. This increased to 55 per cent last year.