Council hit with €7m refund

by Gazette Reporter

Fingal County Council has had to refund €7 million to the National Toll Roads following a Supreme Court judgment in October to reduce a 2005 rate valuation on the M50 West-Link Bridge, which it paid for five years.
The first of three separate appeals began in 2005 when the rateable valuation for the WestLink Toll Bridge, operated by National Toll Roads Ltd, was increased by the commissioner of valuation because of an increase in lanes on the road, situated over the Liffey. This was disputed by the company which appealed it to the valuation tribunal.
The tribunal determined a reduced assessment of rateable valuation made by the commissioner of valuation. The matter was then appealed successfully to the High Court and the original valuation was re-instated.
“West-Link Toll Bridge Ltd further appealed the High Court decision to the Supreme Court. Fingal County Council was a notice party to the appeal process. Judgment was delivered by the Supreme Court on October 23, 2013 allowing the appeal,” a council spokesperson explained.
Fingal paid out €7.05 million after the ruling, but a further €3 million in interest is being sought by NTR and this is currently being disputed by the council.
At a recent council meeting, Des Bruton of FCC said it is a “significant financial hit” but the council had made provisions for bad debt and made a “specific provision” since 2008 for this particular case in the order of €4 million.
“The way that we are trying to deal with this is to hit this bad debt provision that we have built up over the years.
“Our focus is to ensure that any deficit at the end of the year is kept to an absolute minimum but it is, nonetheless, a very significant cash outflow,” he said.
In reaction, although shocked with the ruling, councillors commended the council for making provisions for the eventuality of the debt.
Castleknock councillor Matt Waine (SP) said: “This really is incredible. First of all the State and the tax payer paid for this [road] through public private partnership… then we gave the contract to run the toll-bridge to a company, who then extracted money from commuters and at the same time turned it into Ireland’s largest car-park. Then we realised the error of our ways and we bought out the contract again… and then they come back and claim the value of the business was exaggerated by this council, take us to court and hit us with a bill. It is absolutely incredible.
“I absolutely think that under no circumstance should our budget be affected,” he said.
With the bad debt provisions in place, the council said it will not affect the rate valuation for ratepayers in Fingal next year.
NTR had not responded at the time of going to print.

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