Business people finding it difficult to pay commercial rates were being sent ‘threatening letters’ by Waterford Co Council, it was alleged at a meeting of the Council in Dungarvan, this week.

Cllr Pat Daly (FF) said there should be a different approach to collecting outstanding rates from ‘genuine people’ in these difficult economic times. He said he had received telephone calls from people in the county whose businesses had gone downhill fast and found themselves in difficulty. The rate demand did not take into account the fall-off in business and if those people were taken to court their business would have no option but to close down.

Cllr Damien Geoghegan (FG) said a rates bill might result in the closure of some businesses and the Council should look leniently on these people at the moment.

Cllr Pat Nugent (FG) said the climate had changed and people were finding it difficult to pay rates and development charges and they should be given some opportunity to defer payment if necessary.

Director of Services, Brian White, said that the Council had been flexible and allowed people time. The payment of development charges were part of planning permissions granted by the Council. In genuine cases, there would be a genuine response but development charges were payable and were not written off and were due before window curtains and landscaping and the Council had to collect them.

The new Head of Finance, Tom Gilligan, said rate collectors were very approachable. Waterford was a very cheap place to do business and individual cases could be discussed ‘one to one’. The Council had services to provide, he said.