MITCHELSTOWN BUSINESSES UP IN ARMS OVER RATES BURDEN
Local councillors and business owners in Mitchelstown met this week to discuss the ongoing rates burden faced by the business community in the town. Cllr’s Kevin O’Keeffe, Frank O’Flynn and Pa O’Driscoll met with a number of business owners at The Firgrove Hotel where they were left in no doubt concerning the pressure local businesses are under because of the current rates situation.
“Rates are a major overhead for any enterprise but for businesses who are renting their retail outlet the rates bill adds even more pressure to the mix,” Mitchelstown Business Association chairman, Eamonn O’Brien said.
The business owners also pointed out the inequality that exists in calculating the rates at present.
“For example, one shop could be paying more in rates than the business next door even though the buildings are the same size and their footfall and turnover could be the same as well,” Eamonn O’Brien continued.
One businessman felt the affect of a very constrictive rates system when he decided to open his business in Mitchelstown. Mark Waldron of Mark’s Fruit & Veg, told The Avondhu that he had received a rates bill from Cork County Council before he had even started trading in the town.
“I received a rates bill for six months arrears that was due on the premises that I had decided to rent. So, before I could even open the doors to the public, I had to pay this. On top of opening the business, buying stock, paying rates and everything else that goes with a new operation, I also had to fork out money for rates that were there before me. It just doesn’t make any sense and wouldn’t attract much new business to a town.”
Cllr Frank O’Flynn wants Cork County Council to decrease the rates for businesses by five percent immediately.
“I would fully support a reduction in the rates and I think Cork County Council should take into account the current economic situation. We have lost many family run businesses that have been trading in our towns for generations. These will never come back and we need to maintain business life in our rural communities. I want to see a five percent decrease in rate charges immediately and I would call on the Fine Gael led council to back the small businesses and to vote for this reduction now,’ Cllr O’Flynn said.
Cllr Kevin O’Keeffe agrees that the rates system needs to be reviewed.
“Businesses are struggling and anything that takes the pressure off must be looked at. I feel however, that a national review of rates for business owners is needed and while I will be pushing for a reduction in rates at Cork County Council, the Government must look at reforming the system,” Cllr O’Keeffe said.
Siobhan Finn, the Mitchelstown business development manager, was also at the meeting.
“This is an issue for businesses across the region and more rural towns must come together to lobby their council representatives to have the whole rates procedure reviewed. While I would welcome Cllr O’Flynn’s call for a reduction in rates, I feel that a five percent decrease is unrealistic at this time. This does not mean however the system should stay as it is, there needs to be a decrease and a complete review of the system carried out now,” Ms Finn said.
RENTS TOO HIGH
While agreeing that rates need to be reviewed, Cllr Pa O’Driscoll feels that rents are also still too high.
“Rents on business premises are, as far as I am concerned, too high and landlords need to look at this as well. I am also concerned at the way the rates are calculated and this needs to be overhauled but the system governing rate arrears for new businesses needs to be abolished.
"Cllr O’Flynn’s call for a five percent reduction in rates is all well and good but such a reduction would mean €5million off the budget and this would have a knock on affect on other services. Environment Minister, Phil Hogan is responsible for this area and is only 14 weeks in the job. Cllr O’Flynn’s party were 14 years in government, they had a lot more time to sort this out,” Cllr O’Driscoll said.
Thursday 7th April 7:02pm