The purpose of this Bill is to extend to the 31st March, 1960, the period within which the erection, enlargement or improvement of a building must be completed in order to qualify for the two-thirds remission of rates for seven years provided by Part II of the Local Government (Temporary Reduction of Valuation) Act, 1954.
Part II of the 1954 Act provided for the granting of two-thirds remission of rates for a period of seven years on the valuation of new buildings and on the total increase in valuation of existing buildings that are enlarged or improved, where the work on the construction, enlargement or improvement was begun and completed in the period commencing on 27th July, 1953, and ending on 26th July, 1956. The remission did not apply to houses erected by local authorities under the Labourers Acts or the Housing of the Working Classes Acts and owned by a local authority, houses in respect of which grants or rates remission were given under the Housing Acts, or under the Housing (Gaeltacht) Acts, farm buildings receiving relief from rates under Section 14 of the Valuation (Ireland) Act, 1852, or premises in respect of which a local authority has decided to remit rates under Section 9 of the Undeveloped Areas Act, 1952. Subject to these exceptions the remission applies to all buildings including hotels, shops, factories, offices and dwelling houses. Where a building is enlarged during the prescribed period and in the revised valuation following that enlargement, earlier improvements or additions are taken into account, the remission also applies to those earlier improvements and additions.
Legislation granting rates remission in respect of new or improved buildings for an initial period after their construction or improvement has been in operation for over 30 years. In the years 1920 to 1939 all buildings of the type covered by the present Bill received rates remission. Between the years 1939 and 1953, however, the remission was confined to dwellinghouses. The 1954 Act, which was introduced by my predecessor, restored the concession of rates remission to buildings other than dwellinghouses. Statistics as to the number of buildings which received this remission are not readily available but on a rough estimate, however, it would appear that about 1,500 premises per annum received the benefit of the Act.
As Senators are aware, this type of rates remission legislation has never been on a permanent basis but has been continued by Acts whose duration was limited. The reason for this is that a concession of this nature, which is paid for by the ratepayers, must be subject to review from time to time lest in changing circumstances it might be imposing an unnecessary burden on the ratepayers. In the course of the debates on the previous Bill many members of the Oireachtas expressed the opinion that its period of application was too short. My predecessor, in reply, pointed out that the question of an extension could be considered when the period of application of the Bill expired.
I consider that there is still need for the concession given by the 1954 Act. I think that from the national point of view the impetus it gives to building projects more than compensates for the extra levy it places on the ratepayers. I feel, therefore, that this concession should be continued for a further period and, accordingly, I recommend this Bill to the House.