Businesses at 'breaking point'; calls for commercial rates to be written off due to Covid-19

Businesses at 'breaking point'; calls for commercial rates to be written off due to Covid-19
Cork County HallPic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Calls have been made by county councillors to cancel commercial rates outright for businesses for a period of six months.

West Cork Councillor and publican Danny Collins raised the issue at this month's meeting of Cork County Council. He said it is mainly hoteliers and publicans that are at “breaking point”.

“I’m in a WhatsApp group that consists of 40 publicans from Innishannon right down to the Beara Peninsula. Basically, they’re not happy about the deferral or suspension of rates. This is like putting it off on the long finger, but it’s going to come back to us at the end of the day,” Councillor Collins said.

The West Cork Councillor said that businesses are seeking a full writing off of rates for six months, otherwise, many businesses won’t be able to reopen.

Councillor Collins called for letters to be sent to Minister Eoghan Murphy, John Paul Phelan and Paschal Donohoe addressing the issue.

“I have spoken to a couple of publicans who are nearly crying on the phone to me, because they have mortgages, they have young families, and they’re just at breaking point,” he said.

Councillor Collins outlined one hotel in West Cork who pays €33,000 in rates per year, and another in the Beara Peninsula paying €50,000, while one pub in West Cork is paying €10,500, and another is paying €13,500.

Councillor John Paul O’Shea agreed with the proposal. He said it is a challenging time for businesses, and that it was important some clarity be got on the deferral of rates from central Government.

However, he said that it’s premature to look for a six month write off, given that no one knows yet how long businesses will be closed. He also raised issues with the local authority’s income.

“A lot of the business we do here as a local authority is done from the income we get as rates and property tax. If we lie to the loss of those rates, are we going to be compensated from national Government? That’s the most important question I think we need to ask,” Councillor O’Shea said.

Councillor Seamus McGrath said what’s been announced in relation to commercial rates deferrals so far is not good enough and described it as “a holding measure”. He said that far more must be done.

Councillor Michael Hegarty said: “A national directive has to be given on this, because Cork County Council cannot be expected to take up the slack. Rates have such a vital role to play in the running of our local authority.” County Mayor Ian Doyle described seeing so many businesses closed as both heartbreaking and necessary, and said he worries for the future of many of them. He supported Councillor Collins’ calls.

Chief Executive of Cork County Council Tim Lucey said the local government sector would welcome a national decision being taken on the issue.

He outlined that Cork County Council, over the initial three month deferral period, stood to lose out on €12 million in rates collection, and said that if the measures extended for 12 months the cost would be €49 million.

“It’s a very significant factor in terms of us being able to continue our own business here.

“Without income, such as that, we’re simply not in a position to continue to deliver services either. We will wait and see what happens on a national level,” Mr Lucey concluded.

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