Renewed calls to punish owners sitting on vacant properties in Offaly
There were renewed calls for Offaly County Council to consider imposing levies on property owners "sitting on" vacant premises within the county.
The suggestion was made by newly elected Green Party councillor Pippa Hackett during a discussion on Offaly County Council's 2020 budget preparations at the June meeting of the council on Monday, June 17.
Director of Finance with OCC, Declan Conlon had early indicated that an increase in revenue would have to be found in order to support all projects requiring matched funding at budget time. He suggested increases to Local Property Tax or commercial rates were the only options, with the LPT increase more plausible.
Mr Conlon told the meeting that around €500,000 would need to be found in the budget in order to fund those matched-funding projects in 2020.
During the subsequent discussion in the chamber, Cllr Hackett said a levy should be introduced for the owners of vacant properties in order to raise some of the money. The re-introduction of empty premises for residential and commercial use has been a bugbear for many councillors in recent years.
Cllr John Clendennen agreed with the call for OCC to look at a levy as well as compulsory purchase orders on vacant properties. He said the issue of vacant properties should be a "top-of-the-agenda item," suggesting, "people are sitting on properties and barring development."
Cllr Noel Cribbin also weighed in on the issue and said, "we should be doing more on vacant properties and we should consider more options."
Responding to the councillors' contributions, Chief Executive of OCC, Anna Marie Delaney, said: "We have a list of derelict properties but unfortunately the levy won't get any return until the building itself is sold."
Director of Services, Tom Shanahan, concurred with the Chief Executive in saying: "It is very difficult to get money out of them. We do work with owners to try and get the buildings back into use."
Chief Executive Anna Marie Delaney said given the possible budgetary restraints with regards to matched-funding projects, councillors had a choice to either curtail the number of projects, something she would not advise, or find funds, with the most likely mechanism being an LPT increase.
Offaly County Council is already preparing for Budget 2020 with the statutory budget meeting scheduled to take place in November 2019.
Prior to that, councillors will be asked whether or not they want to increase the Local Property Tax as a revenue-raising exercise at a meeting in September.
The public will be asked for budgetary proposals in August this year.