Campbell says rates find shows need to correct ‘chaotic’ system

Newtownabbey Alliance Party Councillor Tom Campbell has welcomed the “discovery” by the Department of Finance of an extra £24 million in rate debt it did not know about. The information has been given in a written answer to an Assembly question.

Cllr Campbell, who represents Antrim Line on the Council, said: “This potential extra revenue stream arises from a somewhat belated discovery of buildings Government previously had listed as vacant but were in fact occupied. The Land and Property Services, which took over from the old Rates Collection Agency, is in the process of passing this information on to local authorities to check these buildings. It has sent out bills to recover the debt. Local councils have found the degree of inefficiency frustrating. Council officers deliver services such as collecting bins and have information gained on a local basis that can lead to the inclusion of a property on the rates list, so that the house occupiers pay for services that they are using.. I have no doubt that the belated discovery of this sum is welcome as we all pay higher rates to use the services that some do not pay. This problem is acute and the Finance Minister last month indicated that Government believes that the mount of rates not collected has increased in recent years and is probably somewhere in the order of £130million.”

Cllr Campbell concluded: “I accept that domestic and non-domestic buildings become regularly vacant or occupied over time but a system must be introduced to issue bills where vacant properties become occupied. Local councils can help, and more cooperation between local and central government on this can make a difference. A considerable amount of revenue has been lost and of course no-one is responsible. The problem is that those who do not pay rates are increasing in number and the system is chaotic. Again local government can assist as in the case of Belfast City Council which used its building control department to ascertain the properties that were thought to be vacant and were, in fact, fully occupied. That exercise is said to have increased the rates base by about £4.2 million. I suspect that there will also be a huge amount of debt that could have been recovered but which will have to be written off.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *