A REDUCTION in the rates rebate for vacant commercial buildings, proposed in the Local Government Bill 2013, “would have a huge negative impact on Shannon Airport”, it has been claimed by a Fianna Fáil TD.
Under the current system, commercial properties are subject to rates payable to the local authority but, in Clare, a 100% rebate is subsequently applied where the property is unoccupied.
In the Dublin City, Cork City and Limerick City local authority areas, property owners are entitled to only a 50% refund of their annual commercial rates liability if the property is empty.
The new bill, which is being debated in the Dáil on Thursday, will standardise vacancy refunds across the country at 50%.
Deputy Timmy Dooley said he plans to raise the issue in the Dáil.
“I am deeply concerned about the impact it would have on landlords across the county, recognising that there has been a considerable downturn in commercial activity. Landlords are under enormous pressure to meet bank repayments and now it looks like they will have to pay rates, even where tenants have moved out,” Deputy Dooley stated.
“It will have a significant impact on the newly independent Shannon Airport, which by the end of this year will have taken control of all of Shannon Development’s built assets, including factories, offices and warehouses throughout the region. I would be worried that if this matter is not addressed, it could have the potential to impact on the viability of the new company,” Deputy Dooley continued.
“I am aware that both the airport authority and Shannon Chamber have been active in outlining the negative consequences if this matter is not resolved,” he concluded.
Chief executive of Shannon Airport Authority Neil Pakey raised the issue at a Mid-Western Regional Authority Meeting in Tipperary on Wednesday.
Speaking to The Clare Champion afterwards, Mr Pakey said he hopes “people in the drafting process will reconsider it because it would have a detrimental impact on the targets we have set for the business going forward”.
Mr Pakey said he would not comment on a figure in relation to how much the authority would have to pay if the change to the rates rebate structure is made, saying “it is too early to speculate on the numbers”.
“This has only come to light fairly recently, so we will have to wait and see how serious it is and what the total impact would be. It would affect both the property of Shannon Development and Shannon Airport to some degree. I don’t know yet the full implications. We are hoping this will be picked up in the draft process,” he stated.
Clare County Councillor Brian Meaney, a member of the Mid-Western Regional Authority, said he believes rates rebates should be standardised at 100% and not the proposed 50%.
“Local authorities are facing challenges when it comes to funding their services. Rates are a major income source for local authorities. Local authorities are also conscious of the fact that this puts a burden on business in what are already trying economic circumstances. It is getting very difficult to collect rates owing and this is to be expected, given that this is a trying time for business.
“I believe that reducing the rebate from 100% to 50% would not represent a viable income source for local authorities because our experience is that we have collection rates of just about 50% at the moment. I believe this change would be a retrograde step,” he said.