asked the Minister for Finance if he is aware that the Listowel rate stands at 30/2d. in the £; that the exceptional height of the rate is due to the necessity of repaying the interest on money borrowed at 5¾ per cent. for the purpose of financing the Lacca water scheme, and that this scheme has proved a failure; that the heavy burden involved prevents the commissioners from undertaking much-needed improvements in the town; and whether in all the circumstances, including the present price of money, he is prepared to reduce the rate of interest from 5¾ per cent. to 4 per cent.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Listowel Rates.
The money referred to in the question was advanced to the Listowel Urban District Council at the interest rate applicable generally at the time to loans for public health purposes made out of the Local Loans Fund; this rate was determined by reference to the rate of interest at which the Government itself borrowed the money. I am precluded by law from making any variation in the terms of issue of a loan which would occasion loss to the fund, and it is not, therefore, open to me to reduce the interest rate as proposed by the Deputy.
Am I right in assuming that the Minister is fully aware of the circumstances under which this happened, in his former capacity as Minister for Local Government and Public Health?
I think so.
Is he not aware that the burden of rates complained of is due, either directly or indirectly, to the action of the Department?
No, I do not accept that at all.
Will the Minister not consider the question of giving, in some way—either the way suggested in the question or otherwise— some help to these ratepayers? Is he not aware that this is the highest rate paid in any town in the country, and is he not further aware that this high rate is due to the necessity of repaying the interest on money borrowed for the purpose of financing the Lacca water scheme, which was imposed on the town by the Department?
Is the Minister not aware that this is all due to the high rate of interest that is charged by the banks?
That is a separate question.
Is not the Minister aware that he received representations from me about a fortnight ago on this matter, and is he not also aware that, recently, the Agricultural Credit Corporation reduced the rate of interest on their loans from 6 per cent. to 4½ per cent.? Would he not consider the possibility of doing the same thing in the case of moneys borrowed in the case of the Commissioners of Public Works?
Is the Minister not aware that, in the meantime, there has been a Conversion Loan, and that the amount of interest paid by the Government for money is less now than it was formerly? Is not that a further reason, in addition to those I have mentioned in the question, for giving sympathetic consideration to the suggestion that some relief should be given to these unfortunate ratepayers?
I am not against sympathetic consideration of that particular matter——
What we want is results.
——but I am precluded by law from making any variation in the terms of such a loan.
Could it not be done by an Emergency Powers Order?
I am precluded, at any rate, from making any variation in the way which the Deputy asked.
Could you not do it, as has been suggested, under an Emergency Powers Order?
Oh, no, I could not.
I am surprised.
I think that the Deputy himself would be one of the first to object to that. May I say, Sir, in reply to Deputy Kissane, that I did receive, more than a fortnight ago, I think, representations from Deputy Kissane on this matter—similar representations to those advanced by Deputy O'Sullivan—and I am sorry that the Deputy has not received a reply so far.