Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 24 Apr 1940

Vol. 24 No. 11

Local Government (Remission of Rates) Bill, 1940——Committee and Final Stages.

Sections 1, 2, 3 and 4, inclusive, and Title of the Bill, agreed to.
Bill passed through Committee without amendments, and reported.
Question—"That the Bill be received for final consideration"—put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

On the final stage of this Bill I should just like to say a word with regard to the last remark made by the Minister. I have not opposed this Bill because it is much better, to my mind, that it should pass in its present form than that it should not pass at all. But I do still think that the Minister has not differentiated in his mind between what I should call two types of possible extension or improvement. There are certain businesses, either large or small, which get to the stage at which they simply must make an improvement or business will suffer. In that case the Minister's argument would be complete—they will do it in any case—and, if they can afford to pay rates, I suppose we had better make them pay them. As far as a very large number of smaller businesses is concerned, more particularly shops and the like, that does not occur for a very long time. It is highly desirable that in our cities shop fronts should be kept up to date and improved as frequently as possible, and if that leads to an increase in the total valuation it is a gain to the ratepayers as a whole. If they do not get that gain for three or five years they do not gain it for that time but they ultimately gain it. That is, of course, if the work would not be done otherwise or if it would be postponed for a considerable time otherwise. Several cases have come to my notice where owners of small and moderate-sized businesses in considering the question of whether or not a new shop front should be put in—I am taking this case because it is the most common and most obvious and the actual case that has come to my notice— found that if they spent, we will say, £500 on improving the front they would probably have an increase in the valuation of somewhere about £30. This is a concrete case and that is what they were advised. They more or less decided not to do it but the shop fitter who was interested pointed out to them that they would get a remission of two-thirds of the increased rates and the result was that they eventually decided to carry out the scheme. Portion of the money had to be borrowed and interest had to be paid on that. They reckoned that by the time the five years were up they would have been able to repay the total amount and they would then be able to pay the increased rates without any substantially increased charge.

The only case, to my mind, for allowing improvements in business premises is to induce people, who might not do so otherwise, to increase the total value of the rates and so increase the wealth of the community. It is true that benefit can be obtained by powerful and wealthy organisations such as banks, who may make improvements to their premises but, if the Government at any time later do find that there is need for work and that it is better to encourage it, it would be the simplest thing to limit the total amount of remission which could be granted. It could be limited to, say, two-thirds of, say, £60 or £70. That would mean that the benefit to large and powerful bodies such as banks would be negligible and would not be taken into consideration by them.

I do not desire to argue the point further. The Bill is going to pass, and it is not practicable for us to amend it here, but I am putting this case forward because I think this will arise again, and I would very much like the Minister's Department to watch and see whether the removal of this concession has not had a tendency in the past three years to reduce the improvements of a minor character, such as shop fronts, for instance, in Dublin, and I would like to see whether, whenever this matter comes up for consideration again, it should not be extended. I do not for one moment argue with the Minister on the point of new buildings. I quite recognise that if a site is available in a city or town, and if that site is taken up and a new building put on it, it is reasonable that they should pay rates on the valuation, but where there is an existing shop and where it is desirable in the interests of the State as a whole, from the point of view of appearance and total rates, I think that concession should be made. It is very often a considerable difficulty for moderate-sized businesses to find the money to make a frontal improvement, and they are deterred by the apprehension that if they touch the front building they are almost certain to have increased rates.

There is one point that Senator Douglas, perhaps, did not stress, and that is that persons who make improvements to their business premises help the building trade, which at the moment needs help very much, and probably will for some years to come. It is well-known that money spent in that particular way extends very far. It does a great deal of good, and if this particular provision were in the Bill, that is, that improvements of business premises would gain a remission of one-third of the rates for a period, then you would increase employment in the building trade, and other employment as well, and you would actually confer a benefit upon the ratepayers by increasing the rateable valuation. The only concession granted to the private individual would be that the benefit he conferred upon the ratepayer would be deferred for a small number of years. I think that for those repairs to business premises there is an unanswerable case for a remission of rates. In regard to the banks and big corporations, I agree with Senator Douglas that the matter is not arguable. The Minister has followed the familiar debating trick of erecting edifices and pulling them down, but nobody but himself put them up.

I just want to make one point, that the reason that the local authority could really afford to wait for the five years for the full rate in cases of reconstruction is that there is no initial expense. The buildings would be already supplied with water, sewage and the other amenities, and the local authority would not be called on for any initial expense in supplying them, as they would be in the case of new premises. Therefore, it would be for their good after a few years to wait for the full rate. Although we all want to get all we can all at once, I think in the case of reconstruction every local authority would be quite prepared to wait for the period mentioned—five years or whatever it is —to get the full rate.

I would just like to say that I think the principle of exemption is a dangerous one. It is very difficult to define it, and it is very difficult to see how it would work out. In addition to that, I am not satisfied that the occupant always gets the advantage of it. I think very often the builder gets the advantage of it. However, so far as improving shop fronts is concerned, they are in the position that obtained for a long time before 1925. They are in no worse a position now than they were then.

The rates were lower, for example, and the valuation is going to be higher, for example. There are two points.

We have not had general revaluation yet. However, I am not going to get myself into that line of argument. We can all watch and see what the development may be, and if the question arises again, we will have had some indication of the trend.

Question put and agreed to.