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Limerick Corporation's Deficit on Electric Light Undertaking Overturned in Court |

Limerick Corporation’s Deficit on Electric Light Undertaking Overturned in Court

LIMERICK, Wednesday – In a significant decision at the Limerick Quarter Sessions, County Court Judge Lane Smith upheld an appeal by Mr Michael O’Brien, a member of the Limerick Corporation. The appeal contested the striking of an improvement rate imposed on the Corporation for the year ending March 31st. This rate had been used to address the deficit incurred in running the electric light supply managed by the Corporation.

Mr D. Sherlock, representing the appellant, argued that the Corporation, operating under a provisional order for the installation of the electric light system, possessed the authority to allocate a portion of the rates to cover any deficit in its operations. This was permissible until the Corporation had charged the maximum price per unit to consumers, set at 8d. However, consumers were only billed 5d per unit, creating an imbalance that the Corporation sought to rectify.

Sherlock contended that it was unfair to burden the general ratepayers, who did not benefit directly from the electric light service, with covering the deficit. He highlighted that out of the 7,000 ratepayers in Limerick, only 267 had the electric light installed in their premises.

In his testimony, Mr O’Brien, the appellant, revealed that the deficit on the electric light undertaking as of the mentioned date stood at £16,000, a sum that needed to be sourced from the rates. Furthermore, he noted that the staff had increased from four to 20 since the inception of the project, leading to additional weekly wage expenses of £26. O’Brien proposed that if the Corporation increased the electricity price from 6d to 7d per unit, it would become financially self-sustaining.

Mr Thornhill, representing the Department of Public Works, cross-examined O’Brien. Thornhill explored the possibility of the Department covering the deficit and questioned the rationale behind adopting an increased price strategy, expressing concerns about its potential impact on consumption.

In delivering his judgment, Judge Lane Smith emphasized the significance of the case, acknowledging the good intentions of the Corporation members but stating that they had exceeded the statutory limits by imposing extra rates on ratepayers. He ruled that the Corporation was entitled to recover the deficit but had overstepped its bounds by burdening ratepayers to fund the electric light department’s operations. Consequently, he quashed the imposed rate, relieving ratepayers of the additional financial burden, and awarded costs to the appellant.

This verdict brings clarity to the financial dynamics surrounding Limerick Corporation’s electric light undertaking and highlights the delicate balance between maintaining essential services and ensuring fair distribution of financial responsibilities among ratepayers.

Dublin Daily Express – Thursday 05 June 1913

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