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Financial foundation laid for Rock Road amenity

IN one of the final acts of Ennis Town Council, funding has been arranged for an amenity scheme for the Rocky Road and water-based leisure facilities at Ballyalla, both a couple of miles on either side of the town.
The council, in its last financial statement, has recommended that credits available in its current account be assigned to a number of areas, including specific funding of €22,697 for the Rocky Road and €25,765 for Ballyalla.
The statement recommends that development contributions paid and due for recreation and amenity projects be assigned to recreation and amenity improvements, open space redevelopment and development at Ballyalla.
The allocation of funding to the Rocky Road and Ballyalla was welcomed by all councillors.
Other recommendations in the annual financial statement include that tenant purchase redemptions be assigned to improvement works on the housing stock of Ennis Town Council; that development contributions paid and due for car parks be assigned to the acquisition and improvement of car parking with the Ennis town area; and that development contributions under Development Incentives programme be assigned to the Market Redevelopment project.
Meanwhile, ratepayers in Ennis who don’t cough up to the town coffers have been warned that they could be facing the courts. Ennis Town Council is experiencing “ongoing difficulties” in collection, a meeting of the local authority has heard.
There are currently 50 cases pending involving non payment of commercial rates to Ennis Town Council, with town manager, Ger Dollard, insisting that while this is a measure that the council does not “do lightly”, it is sometimes necessary.
2013 resulted in a negative operating result of €672,558 on the income and expenditure account for the council, figures released by the local authority confirm. According to Mr Dollard, this was mainly due to court costs, unexpected retirements and ongoing difficulties with rate collection.
He said the account, “represented the continued challenging economic environment that we have experienced for the past number of years and reflects the costs associated with two separate High Court cases involving national issues.”
The meeting was told that in 2013, Ennis Town Council had uncollected rates at December 31 of €4,976,827, or 56.38% of the rate demand. This compares with €4,373,309, or 52.46% of the rate demand for 2012.
The council had irrecoverable rates of €1,018,530, which represented 11.54% of the rate demand for 2013. In 2012 the amount of irrecoverable rates was €1,001,939. These irrecoverable rates related to rates, which are not legally collectable, eg demolished / vacant properties, charitable organisations, properties occupied by the HSE etc.
Town clerk, Leonard Cleary explained, “Due to the current economic climate, ratepayers are unable to pay rates on vacant properties and claim back as a rates refund in the following year. In these cases, rates on vacant properties were written off as irrecoverable and this explains the increase in irrecoverable rates from 2012.”
As of December 31, 2013, the temporary uncollectable rates balance stood at €3,958,460, representing 44.84% of the rate demand for 2013. However, €698,334 has been collected in rates arrears to April 30, 2014. According to Mr Cleary, “This temporary uncollectable balance is made up of a number of accounts, each with considerable balances owing.”
He added that Ennis Town Council is making every effort to recover these monies by agreeing payment plans to allow people to make phased payment or by proceeding through the appropriate legal channels, including the service of court summonses.
Mr Dollard stated that the “last thing the council want to do is take people to court”, but that the services provided by the council depend on the payment of rates. He continued to say that if an arrangement can be made with the rate payer then the council will strive to do so. “However, if they ignore or don’t live up to their commitment then we have no option but to go down the legal route. It is not something we do lightly,” he said.
Mr Cleary continued by saying that a number of companies who owe rates have gone into liquidation in the last number of years and the council must await the decision of liquidators to establish the amount of outstanding rates that will be recovered from these companies.
n The Rocky Road area in Ennis. Photograph by John Kelly

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