Seanad debates

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Local Government Rates and Other Matters Bill 2018: Committee and Remaining Stages


10:30 am

Photo of John Paul PhelanJohn Paul Phelan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

The best way to achieve the Senator's aims is through section 15 because if the amendment were to be introduced, it would allow the bigger charitable shops competing with existing smaller retailers, particularly in smaller towns, to get through a gap. The requirements she outlined could easily be stitched into the local area plan in Tallaght, for example, such that organisations involved in community development etc. would be exempt. They are already exempt in terms of certain properties they occupy, but that could be extended to their retail premises.

The Senator is correct to point out that there is a significant difference between making €1,600 and investing it in charitable purposes and companies that are making significant profits. That is why stitching the amendment into national legislation would be akin to using a sledgehammer to crack a nut and could allow organisations through a gap, which is not the Senator's intention. There are 11 recently elected local councillors in Tallaght between the two districts who sit as an area committee and make the ultimate decision on what goes into the Tallaght local area plan. They have a level of local knowledge which I, my successors, the rates commissioner or the staff in the rates section of the Department do not. That is why the alleviation scheme in section 15 is appropriate to these circumstances. It is a new initiative. I outlined to Senator Mulherin its role in terms of planning objectives in the centre of some regional towns.However, one of the other purposes is to allow for that level of local knowledge. The issue of people receiving letters from the sheriff about rates owed was mentioned. We want a rates scheme that is flexible and reactive to the reality of the situation on the ground, wherever that is.

If an issue is underpinned by the county development plan, the local area plan or the city development plan, it can form the basis of how an alleviation scheme or an aspect of same can operate. While that might not include a commercial gym, I see how it could cover the type of centre that was mentioned. The Senator is completely right. I have never been to a gym, but people are more conscious of other local issues and their role in same, particularly during a recession. The membership of gyms and the like has increased significantly. For half the people who go to gyms, it is a mental health issue as much as a physical health one, given that endorphins are, I am told, released when people exercise. The section 15 provision allowing for an alleviation scheme would cater for the types of scenario that the Senator outlined.

I am not in a position to accept the charitable purposes amendment in full. It would have other adverse effects, particularly in provincial towns where small draperies or retailers can be in competition with large charity retail outlets.

I hope that my answer is sufficient for the Senator.


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