Rates loss is £1.7m

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More than £1.7million of debt from unpaid rates was written off in Derry last year - a rise of more than 115% in just three years.

The body responsible for collecting rates, Land and Property Services, say the massive spike is a result of the ongoing economic downturn and it’s impact on business.

“Derry City Council has the second highest property tax base in Northern Ireland, with 57% of the tax base being non-domestic properties.

“The non-domestic sector has felt the impact of the recession and this is reflected in the increasing level of debt write-off in the Derry City Council area,” a LPS spokeswoman says.

Last year the amount of rates debt, both domestic and commercial, written off in Derry stood at £1.745million - a massive jump from the £783,000 written off in 2009/10.

In 2010/11 the figure stood at £977,000 in the Derry City Council area.

The LPS spokeswoman says every effort is made before the debt is written off.

“Debt is only written-off where all possible rate recovery options have been exhausted and in accordance with government accounting write-off principles when the debt is therefore deemed as irrecoverable.

“Debt considered for write-off is subject to a number of tests, in accordance with the LPS write-off principles.

“Ratepayer debt associated with formal confirmation of bankruptcy, liquidation and administration is written off with immediate effect.”

The latest figures obtained by East Derry SDLP MLA John Dallat further show that in Limavady £225,000 was written off last year while in Strabane the figure stands at £289,000.

Both are significantly higher than in 2010/11 and 2009/10.

Mr Dallat says the north west figures should sound alarm bells at Stormont.

“We cannot ignore these depressing figures and those with the power cannot continue sitting on their hands.

“Action is needed and needed now and I am determined that a new sense of teamwork emerges among all the players.

“That teamwork must put people before parties and replace hopelessness with hope and a new beginning despite the austerity policies of the British government.”

Across the north in excess of £21million was written off in 2011/12, more than double the £10.2million written off in 2009/10.