It is legitimate for the owner of a petrol station located in rural west County Limerick to ask what services the local authority is providing his business, Fine Gael Deputy Patrick O’Donovan told the Dáil.
“He may not have access to street lighting or footpaths and may not even have local authority provided running water,” he said.
“It is legitimate in such circumstances to ask what services the business receives in lieu of rates, given that they may be as high as those paid by a business in the centre of a city which benefits from footpaths, lighting, parks, libraries and other services. The current system is inherently unfair.”
Speaking during a debate on a Private Member’s Bill on commercial rates, he said he was aware that while changes were made recently to the Valuation Bill before the Seanad, the legislation is designed to do only one thing, namely, to make the collection of rates easier.
“It is farcical that it does not include any measures to ease the burden of rates or make them more transparent,” he said.
“While it provides that businesses will be able to have valuations completed quicker, it will not result in any reduction in rates.”
A revaluation process was completed recently in Limerick, he said. It will take 20 years to revalue the entire country if the Valuation Office completes the task at the current rate.
The valuation system, as a means of funding local authorities, is inefficient, archaic and long past its sell-by date.
“This issue will not go away irrespective of which party is in government,” he said.
“The system needs to change fast. The days of doing nothing are over. Frustration is mounting among self-employed business people who are disappointed that nothing is being done about rates.
“I am aware of the Minister of State’s background in County Waterford. I appeal to the Government, especially my Fine Gael Party colleagues, to ensure this issue is addressed.
“We must not leave it to another Government to take basic steps to address problems with rates. The local property tax has been introduced and is being collected. It is seen to be fair and those who pay it have an input in the process.
“They know exactly how it is calculated, who is recovering it and where the money is spent.
“In contrast, the collection of rates involves plucking an arbitrary figure from the sky.
“Local councillors then attach a multiplier to this figure in December of each year and this determines the rate, which must then be paid in two moieties. People do not know on what it will be spent. It could well be spent in a different part of the city or county.”
The Private Members’ Bill was defeated by 65 votes to 50.
113,000 outstanding bench warrants unjustifiable - Collins
In July 2012, there were 124,000 bench warrants outstanding and as of the first quarter of this year, the figure is approximately 113,000, Fianna Fáil’s Justice Spokesman Deputy Niall Collins told the Dáil.
Speaking during Question Time, he said that is unjustifiable and indicative of a major dysfunction.
“The people impacted the most are victims of crime, and we must be most concerned about them,” said Deputy Collins.
“The information which the Minister has provided points to a continuing major dysfunction in the execution of bench warrants, particularly as such warrants are the bread and butter upon which the criminal justice system works when judges are ordering people to appear before them or in committing people to prison,” he said.
“If that plank of our criminal justice system is breaking down to the degree described, the figures must serve as a wake-up call to the Minister and her Government.”
In response, the Minister said genuine difficulties can arise where it does not prove possible to enforce a warrant and it is important that systems are in place to ensure that warrants are enforced as quickly as possible.
“In this regard, I have been assured that An Garda Síochána gives priority to the execution of warrants in respect of serious crime and will continue to do so,” he said.
“I am conscious that difficulties in the execution of warrants have been a matter of concern over many years. It is also true that this is a longstanding difficulty for many police forces around the world.
“I welcome the analysis provided by the Garda Síochána Inspectorate on warrants in the recent crime investigation report.”