Seanad debates

Wednesday, 15 November 2006

Local Government (Business Improvement Districts) Bill 2006: Report and Final Stages

 

7:00 pm

Rory Kiely (Fianna Fail)
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Amendment No. 1 is a Government amendment. Amendment No. 2 is cognate. The amendments will be taken together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 1:

In page 6, lines 9 and 10, to delete "[early termination]," and substitute "(respecting early termination),".

Photo of Batt O'KeeffeBatt O'Keeffe (Minister of State with special responsibility for Housing, Urban Renewal and Developing Areas, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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These are drafting amendments. I ask that they be accepted without debate.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 2:

In page 6, lines 42 and 43, to delete "[early termination]," and substitute "(respecting early termination),".

Amendment agreed to.

Rory Kiely (Fianna Fail)
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We move to amendment No. 3. Amendments Nos. 4 to 6, inclusive, are related. The amendments will be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 3:

In page 9, to delete line 5 and substitute the following:

"129D.—(1) A copy of a BID proposal—".

Photo of Batt O'KeeffeBatt O'Keeffe (Minister of State with special responsibility for Housing, Urban Renewal and Developing Areas, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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On Committee Stage the Labour Party proposed two amendments which would require the rating authority to make a copy of a business improvement district, BID, proposal available on the Internet and indicate the website address where a copy of the BID proposal could be inspected. In response, the Minister advised that aspects of this were important and that we would introduce an amendment in this regard. Therefore, we are introducing an amendment which specifically provides that a BID proposal may be made available on the Internet. The amendments I have brought forward provide accordingly and insert the first reference to the Internet in a new subsection, section 129D, thus highlighting the point raised by the Labour Party far more clearly. In addition, amendment No. 6 provides that where a BID proposal is made available on the Internet, the website address for viewing a copy of the BID proposal must be specified in the public notice inviting submissions on the BID proposal. I hope this incorporates and enhances the Labour Party proposals.

Photo of Michael McCarthyMichael McCarthy (Labour)
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I wish to explain the reasoning behind my amendment although the Minister of State has moved the Government amendment. There was an indication that this would be dealt with at an earlier stage. I thank the Minister of State for taking the time to consult the Department and for coming back with this amendment. It is important that this information is available on the Internet. I thank the Minister of State for taking this on board.

Photo of James BannonJames Bannon (Fine Gael)
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I compliment the Labour Party on tabling its amendment. The amendments refer to the "rating authority". The elected members of a local authority are those who strike the rates. I am disappointed that greater provision is not made for more members of the local authority to be included in the BIDs. The amendment makes provision for only one member——

Photo of Batt O'KeeffeBatt O'Keeffe (Minister of State with special responsibility for Housing, Urban Renewal and Developing Areas, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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We might come to that issue at a later stage.

Rory Kiely (Fianna Fail)
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That is not relevant.

Photo of James BannonJames Bannon (Fine Gael)
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It is important the point is made.

Rory Kiely (Fianna Fail)
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It is not relevant at this time.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 4 not moved.

Government amendment No. 5:

In page 9, between lines 14 and 15, to insert the following:

"(2) In addition to but not instead of complying with subsection (1), the rating authority concerned may publish a copy of the BID proposal on the internet."

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 6:

In page 9, to delete lines 31 to 36 and substitute the following:

"(i) an address or location at which a copy of the BID proposal may be inspected pursuant to section 129D(1),

(ii) the price for which a copy of the proposal may be purchased from the rating authority under section 129D(1), and

(iii) if a copy of the proposal is also published on the internet pursuant to section 129D(2), the website address for viewing that copy,".

Amendment agreed to.

Rory Kiely (Fianna Fail)
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Amendment No. 7 is a Government amendment. Amendments Nos. 8 to 11, inclusive, are related. The amendments may be taken together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 7:

In page 15, lines 39 to 41, to delete all words from and including "determined" in line 39 down to and including "property)," in line 41 and substitute "determined,".

Photo of Batt O'KeeffeBatt O'Keeffe (Minister of State with special responsibility for Housing, Urban Renewal and Developing Areas, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I indicated to the House on Committee Stage that, if it was considered appropriate, I would bring forward any necessary amendments on Report Stage with regard to the definition of the term "unoccupied" and related terms in sections 4 and 5 of the Bill. Amendment No. 8 introduces a definition of the term "unoccupied" in the context of the termination of the BID contribution levy under the new section 129N. Current rating law contains provisions in regard to rate refunds where a property is unoccupied. Section 129(N) contains a similar provision whereby 50% of the BID contribution levy will apply where a property is unoccupied. The 50% rate will, therefore, apply where no income is being derived from a property and this is an equitable provision.

Amendment No. 8 provides that for a property to qualify as unoccupied, the owner must satisfy the rating authority under three separate tests: first, that the owner is not occupying the property; second, that no other person is entitled to the use or enjoyment of the property; and, third, that the owner is genuinely unable to find a tenant at a reasonable rent. The owner must satisfy the rating authority under these headings to qualify for the 50% rate on the BID contribution levy. The wording of the amendments is similar to that used in rating legislation and it is necessary to set these tests out explicitly in the legislation.

Amendment No. 9 introduces a similar provision in respect of entry year property and post-entry year property levies. Amendments Nos. 7, 10 and 11 are consequential amendments to amendments Nos. 8 and 9 and they are required to realign relevant language in the Bill following definition of the term "unoccupied".

Photo of James BannonJames Bannon (Fine Gael)
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If a title is not in order, is it covered by these provisions? Local authorities have failed to establish the ownership of properties in various towns in the past because, for example, when the owner died, his or her relatives were in America and the property lay dormant. Longford County Council has been unable to establish ownership of a property in one town for the past five years. Is this covered by the legislation?

Photo of Batt O'KeeffeBatt O'Keeffe (Minister of State with special responsibility for Housing, Urban Renewal and Developing Areas, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I understand where the Senator is coming from but, in this instance, title is not an issue. The legislation deals with the occupier of the property who is benefiting from it. If the person is operating a business from the property, he or she will be liable to pay a contribution to the local BID but if the property is unoccupied, such a requirement will not apply, although if the property has been leased, the owner will be liable. Title and ownership are not at issue in this legislation.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 8:

In page 16, between lines 37 and 38, to insert the following:

"(10) For the purposes of this section, rateable property is 'unoccupied' if the person who owns the property on the date that the annual BID multiplier is determined (the 'owner') satisfies the rating authority that—

(a) the owner was not occupying the property on that date,

(b) no other person was entitled to the use or enjoyment of the property on that date, and

(c) acting in good faith, the owner was genuinely unable to find a suitable tenant for the property at a reasonable rent.".

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 9:

In page 23, between lines 20 and 21, to insert the following:

"(11) For the purposes of this section and section 211E, qualifying property is 'unoccupied' if the person who owns the property on the entry date (the 'owner') satisfies the rating authority that—

(a) the owner was not occupying the property on that date,

(b) no other person was entitled to the use or enjoyment of the property on that date, and

(c) acting in good faith, the owner was genuinely unable to find a suitable tenant for the property at a reasonable rent.".

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 10:

In page 23, line 23, to delete "being occupied," and substitute "rateable occupation by the owner of the property,".

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 11:

In page 23, line 32, to delete "being occupied" and substitute "rateable occupation".

Amendment agreed to.

Rory Kiely (Fianna Fail)
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Amendments Nos. 13 and 14 are cognate on amendment No. 12 and, therefore, it is proposed to take amendments Nos. 12 to 14, inclusive, together by agreement.

Government amendment No. 12:

In page 28, line 17, to delete "of this Act".

Photo of Batt O'KeeffeBatt O'Keeffe (Minister of State with special responsibility for Housing, Urban Renewal and Developing Areas, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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These are technical amendments. There is no need to include the words "of this Act" in the legislation and I propose, therefore, to delete these words in sections 7(2), (3) and (4).

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 13:

In page 28, line 20, to delete "of this Act".

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 14:

In page 28, line 22, to delete "of this Act".

Amendment agreed to.

Bill reported with amendment and received for final consideration.

Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass".

Photo of Cyprian BradyCyprian Brady (Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Minister of State. I very much welcome the passage of the legislation because it will enhance Dublin city centre. I congratulate Tom Coffey and the Dublin City Centre Business Association on the significant work they did on business investment districts, BIDs. Such districts will be very beneficial and they have been hugely successful in other countries. They will enhance towns and villages throughout the State.

Photo of James BannonJames Bannon (Fine Gael)
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I thank the Minister of State. Fine Gael has supported the Bill since its introduction because we have seen how similar legislation has enhanced cities in Europe and the United States. The concept was developed in New York and it will enable towns, cities and even smaller areas to become more attractive to investors. BIDs bring great benefit to businesses and communities and they will also be greatly beneficial in attracting industry because the first thing an industrialist considers is the attractiveness of an area. Our cities and towns will be greatly enhanced and, therefore, I welcome the Bill.

Photo of Michael McCarthyMichael McCarthy (Labour)
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I was thinking of the broadcast of "The Week in Politics" on the night of the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis and how well the Minister of State looked alongside his two new colleagues in Cork North-West. I was overcome with emotion.

Rory Kiely (Fianna Fail)
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That is not relevant to the debate.

Photo of Michael McCarthyMichael McCarthy (Labour)
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He was referred to as the cuckoo in Cork North-West the following day on RTE Radio 1.

I thank the Minister of State and his officials for being forthright with the legislation and for accepting amendments that improved it. It will prove to be very effective.

Photo of Batt O'KeeffeBatt O'Keeffe (Minister of State with special responsibility for Housing, Urban Renewal and Developing Areas, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I welcome the positive reception given by all sides to the concept of business improvement districts. They have been tried elsewhere, especially in the US and Canada, and the success achieved can be translated to our cities and towns in the years ahead. BIDs have significant positive effects by improving business and enhancing the local communities. They can also have a positive effect on tourism and employment. In a number of jurisdictions, there is evidence BIDs have contributed to a reduction in crime, an issue which is never far from our minds. I thank the Senators for their contribution and I express my appreciation for a useful and constructive exchange of views during the passage of the legislation. I thank the Cathaoirleach for his co-operation.

Question put and agreed to.

Rory Kiely (Fianna Fail)
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When is it proposed to sit again?

Photo of Cyprian BradyCyprian Brady (Fianna Fail)
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At 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.