Empty shops cost councils millions

KILKENNY local authorities have been forced to write off millions of euro in commercial rates due to vacant properties according to a parliamentary question tabled by Deputy John McGuinness.

KILKENNY local authorities have been forced to write off millions of euro in commercial rates due to vacant properties according to a parliamentary question tabled by Deputy John McGuinness.

Deputy McGuinness said that the issue that was being higlighted in the response to his question was the burden of rates on small and medium sized enterprises. The response to the PQ showed that between 2007 and 2009 Kilkenny County Council wrote off €2,7 million euro in commercial rates due to business closing and properties being left vacant. In 2007 the council wrote off €498,000 but as the recession continued that figure almost tripled. In 2009 the council were forced to write off €1,237,000 in commercial rates. Kilkenny Borough Council has also had its funding hit due to writing off commercial rates from vacant premises. Between 2007 and 2009 the Borough Council wrote off €1,2 million. In 2007 the Borough Council wrote off €234,000 but by 2009 this had risen to over €500,000.

A spokesperson for Kilkenny County Council explained why the council had written off millions of euro in commercial rates. The spokesperson said “Kilkenny Local Authorities operates a policy of being flexible whereby waivers may be granted provided evidence is provided that the property is vacant e.g. letter from an auctioneer that the property is available to buy or let.”

Deputy McGuinness said “The amount of rates being written off is a clear signal of how poorly the small and medium enterprises sector is performing and in particular the retail sector”. He said that he was proposing the idea of implementing a fairer system of rates that would see business charged on either their turnover or profitability. Mr McGuinness said that the current system of commercial rates was closing businesses. “Rates are a huge imposition on businesses. Businesses have closed due to rates. People say I haven’t got the money to pay the rates. It is a central reason for businesses closing,” he said.

Mr McGuinness said that council were now going as far as taking over the insurance vacant premises and using them for art projects to stop streets becoming ghost towns. Mr McGuinness also highlighted that nationally all of the councils in the country rely on only 170,000 businesses.