Politicians urged to look at ‘insane rates’

Peter Mackenzie. (DER0814PG070)
Peter Mackenzie. (DER0814PG070)

A Derry businessman has claimed the north’s “insane rates system” has left him facing bankruptcy for the second time in just two years.

Peter Mackenzie said he has received a £15,000 rates bill for the former Bookworm bookshop on Bishop Street, a property he claims he has not had liability for since being declared bankrupt in 2012.

“My point is that from the time of my bankruptcy the property has not been my repsonsibility. It has been in the hands of the trustee of bankruptcy and subsequently the bank and receiver.

“Now they want me to pay £15,000 that dates back to the day after I was made bankrupt, on a property that I can neither lease, rent or sell. It is insane.”

Mr Mackenzie, who traded in Bishop Street for more than thirty years, said the failed sale of the building to a local charity underpinned his stance.

“We thought it had all been arranged but as part of the deal they needed some kind of evidence that £0.5million would secure the deal.

“I went along to the trustee and said we needed some kind of evidence that the amount would secure the building, but I was told it was not mine to sell - it was as clear as that. If it is not mine to sell, then how is it my liability to pay rates?”

He argued commercial property rates is an issue that the north’s politicians have systematically failed to address.

“The reality is that I know several commercial property owners who have had to hand over their property to charities just to get them out of their rates bill. The insanity of all this only goes to prove how stupid our attitude is towards proper governance around issues like rates.”

Last night a spokeswoman for Stormont’s Department of Finance and Personnel, who have responsibility for Land and Property Services, said Mr Mackenzie may be “entitled to a rate exclusion.”

“Where an individual ratepayer has been made bankrupt and the property is owned /occupied by the individual it is usually vested by the trustee in bankruptcy. Individual ratepayers would not normally be liable in this circumstance during this vested period. A bankrupt individual should make contact with LPS at the earliest opportunity,” she said.