Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 19 Jul 1962

Vol. 196 No. 16

Committee on Finance. - Rates on Agricultural Land (Relief) Bill, 1962.—Money Resolution.

I move:

That it is expedient to authorise such payments out of money provided by the Oireachtas as are necessary to give effect to any Act of the present session to amend and extend the Rates on Agricultural Land (Relief) Acts, 1939 to 1959.

The Minister, in reply to a question this week, gave me particulars of the rate collectors paid by way of salary as against those paid by way of commission. I am not bothering at the moment about urban areas. I am thinking purely in terms of county councils. I notice that in certain areas the councils concerned appear to have gone over virtually entirely to salary. Cork and Dublin appear to have entirely gone over. I should be interested to know if the Minister has received any report from those local authorities as to the efficiency of the change. Can he tell me also how the councils concerned dealt with the established officers who had rights as rate collectors? Had they to retire them and pay them heavy compensation to buy them out or how did they effect this change?

From time to time in Kildare we considered whether or not a change would be desirable. Whenever we did give any consideration to that problem we always came up against the situation straight away that there were many established rate collectors there whose terms of appointment were on a commission basis and we could not see, in consequence, how we could make the shift-over on a wide front, if we wanted to. Discussing this matter with some county councillors, we came to the conclusion that we were virtually tied to the situation until a vacancy arose for a rate collector. A mixum gatherum sort of system did not appear to us to be entirely satisfactory. I am particularly anxious, therefore, to know how Dublin and Cork county councils have got over that problem and how they were able, in one fell swoop, apparently, to change from rate collectors who had been remunerated on a commission basis and to put everybody on a salary alone basis.

The position is generally as the Deputy has outlined in regard to the change over. By and large, throughout the country, where these new salaried posts are being created, they are generally being created only as and when districts become vacant. There is not the problem therefore that has been suggested. I understand that it may have been done in certain cases, by agreement with existing poundage rate collectors, if we might call them so. They opted to go over to a salary scale. But, in general, salaried posts are arising only where the districts become vacant.

In so far as Cork is concerned, I think they do their collection from the office and by established officers of their council staff. I would not say that that goes for the entire number at the moment but, in the main, I think that is the position. This question, then, does not and will not further arise in Cork in so far as the——

Has the Minister a copy of the question?

I have, actually.

I think the Minister is not right. If he looks at Cork and Kerry, I think he will find that the Kerry situation is where they are collected from the office and the Cork situation is where——

Cork also.

Thirty collectors in Cork are employed on a salary basis. The Minister adds the footnote "Rate collectors remunerated by way of salary are paid a performance bonus in addition to the basic salary." There is only one such collector and he is in Kerry. I think it is in Kerry that they are collected by the office.

I take it the council do not fill any vacancies that arise?

That has been the position in Kerry for many years.

It is an office collection?

Yes, and, if fully calculated, you could say that the time of remaining fulltime people would have been taken up in the collection in any one year. However, as we have it and as it is intended, there does not seem to be an assignment of the duties of collection to any given number other than this one.

There does seem a discrepancy.

Yes. It seems rather a strange comparison that you have 30 in Cork and only one designated in Kerry but it lies in the designation by the council rather than 30 in Cork and only one for Kerry. As to how this system of salary payments is going—the overall numbers and indeed the time over which collections have been done by the salaried collectors— it is scarcely fair at this juncture to give any judgment on the method or the efficiency of the service as given by salaried officers but so far as my Department are aware there is not any cause for complaint in regard to the manner in which the job is being carried out.

Again, in the years ahead, as the numbers increase and as time goes on, it may well be that they will be shown to be more efficient or less efficient. At the moment, it seems that the collection being done by salaried officers is nothing to be complained about, let us put it that way, and seems to be fairly satisfactory as far as we are aware.

Is there any local authority other than Kerry that does the collection from the office?

Not entirely.

Has the Minister given any consideration to an analysis of the efficacy of office collection in Kerry compared with that in other places? I am thinking of whether the Minister has himself instituted something on the lines of a business consultant examination of office collection, salary collection and the poundage method.

The Kerry case probably would not be a fair case to take because the collection is not and has not been a really high percentage collection, as we know it. It is a difficult county to collect. I should not like to take it as a true analysis of what this type of system would show in all other counties.

In relation to office collection as between rates and annuities the annuity amount is fixed, year in and year out—the same amount is paid every gale day—a rate, however, varies from year to year. I am frankly not quite clear how an office collection is dealt with there. Is it dealt with merely by way of a postal demand——

——which encloses a type of receivable order, or is the payer expected to pay by way of postal money order or cheque back to the council or is it meant to be paid into the bank with a credit slip of some sort? Banks recently have brought in new forms of credit acceptance, a new form of accepting payments for customers' accounts at different offices. I am merely trying to see whether there has been any examination from the Departmental point of view as to whether, with these new banking facilities, there might not be, based on office collection, a cheaper form of collection than that obtaining at the moment.

I can assure the House that very full consideration is being given to the overall systems of collection. On the specific question regarding the Kerry collection, the rates are sought by post. The demand notes are posted to the ratepayers and the rates are then paid in any one of a number of forms—it could be by postal order, money order, cheque or by cash—at the council offices. Certain offices are set aside on certain days——

Fair days and so on.

——fair days and market days, and designated places are made available in or around the end of each half year. A system on that basis has been working for some time. I might also say that in the change-over as between district and district, not to mention county and county, the pattern of collection and the efficiency of the collection as indicated by the percentage collected, which I suppose is really the true basis on which to decide whether it is efficient or not, seems to be much the same as before. Where the collection was good, you get a good return and where the history was bad——

It is more the efficiency of the ratepayers than the efficiency of the collector.

I would say so.

Question put and agreed to.
Resolution reported and agreed to.