CLARE County Council is owed close to €21 million in commercial rates, latest figures have confirmed.
The figures also show that as well as the €20,995,000 outstanding for rates as of September 30, other monies owed to the council are €8.25m in development contributions, €1.65m in housing loans and rents, €629,000 in fire charges, €426,000 in LEO refundable aid and €1.5m for other charges.
The details were released at this week’s meeting of the local authority on foot of a request by Councillor Michael Hillery, who described the amounts as “frightening”.
“I know we are going through a recession and there are people availing of the council’s payment plans, but there are people out there who have money are not paying,” he said.
He called on the Government to give councils the power to collect outstanding debts. “The council cannot carry on with debts like this, they have to be collected.”
Niall Barrett, head of finance, commented, “In 2015, the council reduced the amount outstanding at the year end by €1.5m, as compared to the year end of 2014. In 2016, the council is working to further reduce the amount outstanding. The amounts due are being actively pursued through engagement with customers in agreeing payment plans or through legal action, where necessary.”
In terms of development contributions, he stated the €8.25m does not take into account any bad debts provision or development contributions deferred based on extension of time, or on agreed payment plans with customers.
“The planning authority continues to pursue the collection of all outstanding contributions via invoicing, once a commencement notice has been submitted and through the enforcement process or legal action where payment is not made by developers per the condition of permission.”
He said the fire authority is actively pursuing the outstanding charges through ongoing engagement with customers through a range of payment options. “Where there is no positive engagement, legal proceedings are to be initiated,” he said.
In dealing with housing arrears cases, he stated the council makes every effort, including regular meetings with customers, to facilitate payment through a range of options and the close monitoring of accounts where difficulties with payments have arisen.
“The housing directorate are in communication with a number of loan customers where loans have become unsustainable and other options are being progressed with a view to reducing arrears, such as the mortgage arrears resolution process.”