THERE are arrears of over €10m in unpaid rates in both county and city, the final meeting of Limerick County Council was told.
But a new scheme for small and medium enterprises is being introduced which will give rebates to those who pay on time. T
he scheme, county and city manager Conn Murray said, was part of a suite of options being considered and offered.
“This is now an opportunity to reward those who are actually paying,” he told councillors. And he expected the amount of arrears collected to increase.
But Cllr Stephen Keary was unhappy with the fact that arrears in the city were running at four times that of the county.
Cllr Kevin Sheahan was equally unhappy and he described the level of arrears in the city, at €8m, as “outrageous.”
“We are entering into a marriage and the dowry is already spent,” he said. However, Mr Murray reassured him that both organisations were in a healthy situation.
Earlier, the head of finance, Tom Gilligan said the county had raised €29m in rates in 2013 while €24m had been raised in the city.
But the level of arrears was running at approximately €2m in the county and at €8m in the city.
Compliance in the county was at 82%, he told councillors and stood at 53% in the city. “I would like to see an improvement on both,” Mr Gilligan said.
He added that the arrears went back some two years or more.
Introducing the new scheme, he said: “In the past we have always used the carrot and stick approach.” The new scheme would encourage people to pay quickly and earlier in the year and it would facilitate cash flow within the council.
“It will be more efficient and more productive,” he continued, pointing out that it would allow staff to work on bigger accounts. He believed it was a win-win for everybody involved.
The scheme will be available to those whose rate bill is at least €750 and not more than €10,000.
It is graded into five bands and those who pay in full by July 31 or have direct debits will be given rebates, ranging from €50 to €300, depending on the band they fall into.
Welcoming the scheme, Cllr James Collins said that while the amounts were reasonably small to begin with, “it is proof we can do this”.
“It is a start,” Cllr Michael Collins said while Cllr Jerome Scanlan said that seasonality should be taken into account.