Audit shows council owed €2.2m in unpaid rates

A total of 20 per cent of commercial rates in Co Roscommon were unpaid in 2014, resulting in a loss of €2.2 million to Roscommon County Council.

  This was revealed in an audit of the local authority that was completed by Mary Keaney, the local government auditor, last month.

  The percentage of rates collected in 2014, 80 per cent, was a slight increase on previous years: between 77 and 79 per cent were paid between 2010-13.

  The auditor noted: “The rates collection increased during the year, resulting in additional receipts of €0.3m and bringing the council’s collection percentage to its highest level in five years, which is a welcome development.

  “The council had €2.2m of rates debtors at the end of 2014.”

  In response, the council said that they proactively managed rates debtors and, where a debtor refused to enter into discussions, it resorted to legal action.

  The audit also noted that the council had a 93 per cent yield for rents and annuities in 2014, which was a 2 per cent increase on the previous year.

  The auditor noted: “The continuing strong collection level for this income stream places Roscommon County Council amongst the best performing local authorities in the country and this is to be commended.”

  There was also an increase in the collection level for housing loans but, at 53 per cent, the auditor said the level was “still far from satisfactory”.

  The auditor also reviewed the accounts of Lough Key Forest and Activity Park, Boyle, in which the council has a 50 per cent interest, and Roscommon Leisure Centre, which it wholly owns.

  The north Roscommon business was found to be performing well, with the audited accounts showing a profit of €149,000 for the year.

  However, the leisure centre continued to struggle – its audited accounts showed a loss of €29,000 for 2014 – and its future is in doubt.

  The auditor noted: “In the same manner as applied in the previous year, a note to the accounts highlighted uncertainty regarding the company’s ability to continue as a going concern, based on the outturn for the year.”