Senator Quinn: While the Minister of State has gone some way towards meeting my concerns, he has not gone far enough. I would have liked an amendment that entitled an occupier or owner to seek a review of the rateable value of his or her property by the commissioner of valuation if, at any time, the value of the property changes. While the amendment moves in that direction, it does not go far enough. In the interests of fairness, an owner or ratepayer should be allowed to seek a review if the value of his or property changes. The value of a business can change overnight, for example, in the case of a petrol station located on a main road that is about to be bypassed. In such circumstances, the value of the company will change immediately. This occurs frequently when new stretches of motorway are built, an example being Urlingford, County Kilkenny. In such cases, flexibility and realism must prevail. Many shops in towns and villages nationwide lie empty for a variety of reasons. We need to introduce a measure that encourages ratepayers to seek a review. The amendment does not go far enough in this regard. I ask the Minister of State to consider whether it is possible to strengthen the amendment on Report Stage to give effect to the objective I have outlined
Senator Daly: I also support the position adopted by Senator Quinn. As he noted, in many cases circumstances beyond the control of the owner of a property will impact on his or her ability to pay. Much of the debate on the local property tax related to ability to pay. Many properties in rural areas are vacant and many county councils have, for the first time, the power to impose half-rates on commercial buildings. While they are not required to exercise this power, it is available to them. Our concern is that the central grant to local authorities provided by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government will be cut, forcing them to act with disastrous effects.
Senator Quinn made a valid point on the issue of seeking a reduction in the rateable value of a property. There is no point in introducing half-measures. As someone who owned a business for many years, the Senator will be aware of the importance of keeping businesses viable and open. The Government has the power to achieve this by allowing business owners to reduce their rates bills. This would keep them viable and sustain employment.
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Senator Byrne: Valuation (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill…: 22 Oct 2014: Seanad debates (KildareStreet.com)https://www.google-analytics.com/plugins/ua/linkid.js//www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js/js/main.js//
I support Senator van Turnhout’s comments. I presume she will table amendments on Report Stage and can inform her that we are willing to support them. I am also sure that the Government will listen carefully to what she says.
I want to talk about the subject of this amendment. Here today a fraud has been perpetrated on the sports clubs and sports community of Ireland. A number of weeks ago Fine Gael Deputies were all over the country in response to Deputy Cowen’s Bill in the Dáil announcing that clubs with bars would be exempt from rates. We were all happy that the Government had decided to accede to our wishes. There are less than a dozen clubs in County Meath that are in that position. I appeal to all Senators and the GAA and FAI to listen to me because this is a very serious issue. Previously, under the 2001 Act, land developed for sport was exempt from rates. Today the Minister is changing that provision and deleting the exemption. He now includes the bars, and is delineating them, so we welcome the measure. He is also now bringing into the rates net any club that leases premises for commercial purposes which is basically any club in the country. Practically every single GAA and soccer club that I know rents out their pitches. That is what the Minister is getting at and that is what he is going to make rateable.
Part of the section states “used directly or indirectly in the generation of income”. I was not aware that such clubs were subject to rates. The fact has certainly not been brought to my attention by anyone. The only people who made representations to me were the clubs in Meath GAA which had bars which amounts to about six or seven clubs. There are some rugby and soccer clubs in the same situation as well.
This proposal is an attempt to remove the exemption for land developed for sport and to bring in clubs that rent out their pitches or all-weather pitches. These clubs were given grant money but use the income generated by rentals to pay off loans they got to put with the grant money. The proposal will be very seriously opposed by all sides in this House and by the sports community throughout the country.
Senator Daly: Valuation (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill…: 22 Oct 2014: Seanad debates (KildareStreet.com)https://www.google-analytics.com/plugins/ua/linkid.js//www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js/js/main.js//
I support my colleague’s comments on this section and our request that the Minister looks at it. We oppose what seems to be the Government’s intention in this regard.
For many years, like many colleagues, I have been involved in GAA clubs. They rent out facilities, halls, astro turf pitches, etc., in order to pay back debt and to run the club. No one is making money out of the venture. These are all voluntary organisations which require the income to make sure their bills are met and the doors are kept open. They provide facilities for the community and for young people. That is the job of the GAA, the rugby clubs and soccer clubs. Therefore, the Government should encourage their efforts.
I also support Senator van Turnhout’s comments regarding child care facilities. In fact, I have serious concerns in this regard. The provision for early child care in this country is not what it should be. Child care facilities in small rural towns and villages throughout the State require assistance from the Government. Charging them rates will not assist them – instead, they should be exempt. The availability of affordable child care is essential for families where there is a necessity for two breadwinners. Child care will not be affordable where rates are imposed on community crèches, a cost which will inevitably be passed on to the families who avail of their services.
Senator Daly: I understand Senator van Turnhout will table an amendment on Report Stage.
This is worrying, which is why we are having this debate. This must be removed. There is a difference between generating income and generating income for commercial purposes. GAA clubs, as a necessity, rent out halls to other sporting organisations for indoor soccer, basketball and so forth. Rugby clubs do the same. They all do it. They also rent out their dressing rooms for the use of outdoor facilities in the winter, such as synthetic grass pitches for which planning permission is required to erect the spotlights.
This will cost sporting organisations millions of euro.
The relevant section states that it refers to facilities used directly or indirectly for the generation of income. When dressing rooms are rented for €70 an hour, they are being used to generate income. That is a fact, whether it is a GAA, soccer or rugby club. I would debate whether a synthetic grass pitch is a building. Planning permission is required to erect spotlights. Along with dressing rooms, halls for meetings and basketball courts are rented to local communities for training for winter games. That is specifically provided for in the Bill. I take the Minister of State’s bona fides on board in terms of guidelines, but they need to be introduced here. I strongly suggest that there has to be an amendment to this section.
The Government will charge sporting organisations money and thousands of organisations will be affected by this. Millions of euro will be sucked out of them. All they want to do is provide sports and activities for young people and the community, and they should be supported in that respect. They will not be able to pay for insurance for the teams on fields and buy footballs, rugby balls and soccer balls because they will have to pay commercial rates.