Local Independent councillor, Michael O’Brien is urging businesses who cannot afford the excessive increase in their rates bill to pay what they did last year or what they can afford.
His calls come in light of the completion of the revaluation of commercial properties which has resulted in 102 small retailers across the county receiving massive increases in their rates liability for 2018.
Cllr O’Brien made his comments at a Westmeath County Council finance meeting last Monday. He said that in Moate a retailer who has been in business for decades had recently closed their doors. With another business at risk of closure, Cllr O’Brien has chosen to speak up.
“Many have come to me from right across the Athlone district saying that their recent rates bill has made them consider the possibility of closing their business,” he said. “I know the council have no power over the revaluation process that has given rise to some ridicules increases, but as an elected representative I’d much rather see these businesses stay open and pay what they can afford rather than closing.”
Cllr O’Brien is calling on the Government to urgently reform the commercial rates system before it is too late.
“While 54.5 per cent of ratepayers have had their rates liability reduced, 45.5 per cent have had theirs increased,” he said. “Of the 45.5 per cent or 1,133 who have had their rates liability increased, 714 (63 per cent ) are experiencing an increase of up to €1,000 per annum. A further 198 (17.5 per cent ) are experiencing an increase of over €2,000, with the remaining 221 ratepayers experiencing an increase of more than €2,000 per annum. Of the 221 ratepayers who have had their rates increased by over €2,000, 102 of them are in the retail sector.
“This is absolutely ridiculous; you couldn’t make this stuff up. The ratepayers that are most affected by this are the small retailer and trader in our towns and villages. Rural Ireland is been hit hard once again. Small retailers and traders across the county who worked hard during the recession to keep their doors open, many closed, and the ones that are left are now being subjected to this craziness.”
Cllr O’Brien is calling on the Government to address the issue before towns and villages witness more closures and job losses.