€123.7m in commercial rates collected by Cork County Council last year

Cork County Council collected €123.7m in commercial rates in 2018, which accounted for 38% of its total revenue that year.

It represents an increase of more than €30m on the commercial rates collected in 2010 and does not include the €12.29m the local authority had to strike off last year deemed to be “irrecoverable” last year, primarily due to business closures.

The collection rate from the council's approximately 14,200 ratepayers was 92.2%. This was up from 89.6% in 2017.

Senior council officials said that while they understood that the economy is continuing to improve, they are still engaging with ratepayers who are struggling to get back on track after the recession.

To this end staff in the rates collections office continue to engage with some ratepayers on agreed stretched payment plans on a case-by-case basis.

“The present economic environment has facilitated sustained engagement by many ratepayers in addressing both current and historic liabilities and provided greater capacity to meet payment commitments,” Lorraine Lynch, the council's head of finance, said.

She added that while the rates collection staff continue to engage with businesses in difficulty and encouraged meaningful engagement, including the flexible payment arrangements, in some cases the county council had been left with no choice but to take legal action to recover what was owed to it.

Ms Lynch said 42 cases were resolved just by the threat of legal action.

However, 87 judgements were obtained by the local authority in the courts.

Despite the good news, Ms Lynch said the local authority had made a bad debt provision for last year of €9m.

“Such provision primarily caters for business closures, valuation appeals, liquidations, extended payment plans and cases subject to legal proceedings,” she said.

“Given the prevailing economic circumstances, I am of the view that the level of collection achieved in 2018 at 92.2% is satisfactory and I welcome the overall trend in compliance continues to be positive,” Ms Lynch added.

Despite the recession, the council has seen sustained growth in its rates collection since 2010 when it brought in €90m. The collection rate topped the €100m mark for the first time in 2013 and jumped by more than €9m the following year and by the same amount again in 2015.

There was a dip from €119.9m in 2015 to €117.4m in 2016 but there have been steady increases recorded again in recent years.

The council sets aside 1% of the revenue it gets from rates for economic development, primarily grant-aiding small start-up businesses.

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