The commercial rates waiver introduced by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government at the outset of the pandemic does not effect BIDS contributions in Dundalk and Drogheda, with some businesses in both those towns still liable to pay those fees to Louth County Council.
The news was revealed at the September meeting of Louth County Council held at St Gerard’s Hall in Dundalk on Monday when Chief Executive Joan Martin said that while rates owed to the local authority had been waived until the end of September, the BIDS contributions were still owed.
“This came unexpectedly,” she told the councillors, responding to a query from Sinn Féin councillor Joanna Byrne. “The government at the very start of lockdown announced a three month rates waiver and subsequently extended that to the end of September.
Ms Martin said the council had received no written guidance or conditions of the rate holiday until recently when a letter circulated by the Department to local authorities confirmed that BIDS rates were still to be paid as normal.
“It was explicitly stated that the rates waiver did not apply to the BIDS element of rates,” she said. “That means that in Dundalk and Drogheda, ratepayers are still liable for the BIDS percentage of the rates. People maybe wouldn’t have realised that. Every business thinks the waiver applies to them completely. That isn’t the case.
“It’s only in recent weeks that when we got the conditions, that it became clear that quite a lot of businesses aren’t eligible for the waiver at all. But regardless of whether they are or aren’t, the BIDS element still has to be collected.
“As there was a rates waiver, we weren’t able to pursue anyone for rates. And we still aren’t until the rates period is up at the end of September. We collect the BIDS element as part of the rates. The payment of it to the two BIDS companies is dependent on us collecting it. That hasn’t been happening for the last six months. There is an issue.
Ms Martin said the decision to exclude the BIDS rates from the holiday was “a little bit petty.”
The government have pledged €600 nationally to make up for the shortfall in commercial rates paid to local authorities as a result of Covid-19, but as of yet that money has yet to be provided. It was revealed on Monday that the council have also taken in €8 million less in commercial rates in the year to the end of August 2020, compared to the same period last year.
“We hope to get it next week,” Ms Martin said, speaking of the commercial rates waiver. “There has no suggestion from government that any other money will be recouped by local government. We are facing into a very uncertain period.”