17/10/2008

MoD Rates Controversy Escalates - Again

Just days after a Sinn Fein call to 'rethink' what had been described as a rates 'rebate' over Ministry of Defence (MoD) properties in the Limavady area, a Derry City Councillor has claimed the body has been 'ordered' to repay £76,000 to the MoD, after the defence agency successfully appealed its rates bill.

While she said that the money is substantial, being for two bases on the Limavady Road, and being backdated to 2003, the Department of Finance & Personnel (DF&P) has now denied that any such 'rebate' has been agreed, and that nothing has as yet been decided in respect of the MoD case.

The official comments come on foot of SDLP Councillor Helen Quigley describing alleged mistakes as "unacceptable".

Speaking on the BBC this morning she said: "Derry City Council, for the second time in as many weeks, will now have to make refunds through errors made by the Land and Property Services.

"I'm seriously concerned about this organisation - the manner in which they're operating.

"And certainly our Council has written to the Public Accounts Committee, the Auditor General and the Minister."

However, the DF&P spokeswoman said that outside of informal briefings, where possible amounts of money might have been referred to, solely by way of guidance, there were no firm decisions taken.
News Image
She also said there was no question of anyone being 'ordered' to repay rates contributions, and suggested that, where necessary, any such amount would be adjusted by the rating agency in future dealings, but stressed that "nothing had been decided" despite the councillor's claim.

The latest controversy follows a statement made earlier in the week by Sinn Fein MLA for East Derry, Francie Brolly, who criticised the Minister, Nigel Dodds for his 'role' in the matter of MoD rating decisions.

In response, a Department of Finance & Personnel spokeswoman insisted yesterday there was no Ministerial role or involvement in this statutory process on rating "either in respect of the applications from the MoD or from any other ratepayer".

She was commenting on claims by the Sinn Fein MLA that a controversial Department of Finance decision "under DUP Minister Nigel Dodds" was made after he had "personally given the green light for a rebate amounting to around £1m to the MoD" as part of a rates arrangement on three Co Londonderry barrack sites.

Today's DF&P statement said: "All ratepayers have the right to challenge the rateable valuations of their properties.

"The District Valuer has a statutory responsibility to ensure that a rateable valuation is fair and reasonable and there are rights of appeal to the Commissioner of Valuation and the Lands Tribunal for Northern Ireland," also recording that in the "three years prior to 2006/07, Derry City Council received payments of almost £4m when the estimates were lower than the final calculation".

See: MoD Rates Rebate Claim Is Refuted

(BMcC)

Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

26 April 2018
Woman Convicted Of Fraudulently Claiming Over £13,000 In Benefits
A 31-year-old woman has been convicted of claiming more than £13,000 in benefits she was not entitled to. Catherine Sheridan of Ardowen, Craigavon claimed Income Support and Housing Benefit totalling £13,750 while failing to declare that she was living with a partner as husband and wife.
20 October 2008
MoD Rates Debate Continues
As controversy continues over rating 'rebates' for army bases owned by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in the North West, the Land and Property Services (LPS) has clarified claims about 'errors' in rates estimates and expressed disappointment over reaction from local representatives.
22 February 2011
Belfast Northside Set For Major Regeneration
A new initiative to regenerate a part of Belfast city centre that has been neglected since the Troubles has been launched by the Stormont Social Development Minister. Alex Attwood announced a number of investment initiatives to transform the Northside of Belfast City Centre.
22 May 2019
PM Outlines New Brexit Deal
Prime Minister Theresa May has set out a new Brexit deal which would seek to conclude alternative arrangements for the Irish backstop by December 2020.
20 May 2019
Thousands Rally For Equal Marriage
Thousands of people have marched through Belfast to demand recognition of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.