The collection of commercial rates and water charges is continuing to prove difficult for Westmeath County Council, who are urging businesses to liaise with them if they are having difficulty meeting the payments.
While commercial rates received by the council to date this year is in line with the previous year, the collection percentage had previously dropped from 93 per cent in 2008 to 84 per cent in 2009.
The collection of water and wastewater charges for 2010 is roughly in line with the budget; however, the council noted that “debt collection associated with this income source continues to be particularly difficult”.
The council’s head of finance Jimmy Dalton says they are working with businesses to facilitate them in any way they can in terms of scheduling payments.
“We would make the point to businesses to please not ignore it but to come and talk to us. We stress that we will work with businesses in terms of collecting the debt due,” he said.
Mr Dalton predicted that, at best, by the end of 2010 the council would have collected 86 per cent of commercial rates, 2 per cent higher than last year.
“The 14 per cent not collected would amount to €2.3 million. Three years ago there was always around €0.5 million not collected. The additional unpaid rates are right across the board, and includes businesses who previously always paid their rates. There is no doubt that there is a distinct lack of liquidity and credit out there,” said Mr Dalton.
“There are, for example, businesses that owe a year and a half’s worth of rates. The challenge is to get those people through this period by monthly direct debit, standing orders, or instalments.”