CLLR John Coonan (FF) has called on Kilkenny Borough Council to use debt collection agencies to collect commercial rates from a small number of business.
A report on the Borough Council’s rate collection, presented at Mondayy night’s council meeting, found that a small number of accounts in the city were responsible for the majority of the money owed to the council.
The council’s head of finance, John Dempsey, said that just 10% of all of the Borough Council’s accounts were responsible for 60% of all the money owed to the council in commercial rates.
Mr Dempsey said that the hotel industry was a particular problem. A campaign is under way by the Irish Hotels Federation to only pay 70% of their commercial rates.
Mr Dempsey said that up until know the council had been lenient but he said: “You’ll see a different response now in a small number if cases.”
Cllr Coonan said that if a small number of large businesses account for 60% of the debts, the council should consider every route possible.
“The legal route is the last avenue, but we could use appropriate debt collection agencies,” he said.
Mr Dempsey said that the council had previously used debt collection agencies on a ‘no foal no fee’ basis but that the council ended up spending a lot of time ‘hand holding.’
He said that where appropriate the council would use debt collection agencies.
Cllr Seán Ó hArgáin (Lab) called on hoteliers to pay their council rates with the same urgency as they pay their suppliers.
He said that the local authority provided services that are equally as important to the hospitality industry.
Overall Mr Dempsey said that Kilkenny was top of the table nationally and was doing very well in a hard environment.
Both Cllrs Kathleen Funchion (SF) and Marie Fitzpatrick (Lab) praised the council and its staff for how they were dealing with residents in council estates who fell behind in their payments.
Cllr Fitzpatrick paid tribute to the staff in the council, noting that “people are no longer afraid to go to the council if they fall into arrears.”