Online shopping, an "inflexible attitude to rate payments", and parking charges are combining to threaten the viability of businesses in small towns - but measures can be taken by the Galway County Council to change this.
This is the view of Fine Gael Galway East TD Paul Connaughton, who is calling on the local authority to take a leading role in "rejuvenating small-town business", in a time when "the way business is being done is changing rapidly".
Dep Connaughton said it was "increasingly difficult to entice people out of their homes or cars and into the local village or town" now that online shopping, topping up credit on a mobile phone, etc, can be done online. While councils cannot be expected to hold back the tide of change in the digital arena, the TD says there are areas when the council can introduce measures that will do much to support business.
Dep Connaughton said businesses in east Galway finding the cashflow to pay the annual rates "is a real struggle for many", with many businesses accusing Galway County Council of having " an inflexible attitude to rate payments".
"Many rate payers cannot pay the rates in one lump sum and cannot meet monthly payments," he said, "have no alternative but to make the payments sporadically, as cash becomes available, especially in businesses with a small volume of high-value transactions."
He added that some County Galway retailers in small amounts of rates arrears, but who are continuing to pay rates, have been issued with court proceedings, a situation which only serves to "incentivise closing such businesses".
Dep Connaughton is also calling for the abolition of parking charges in small towns. "It is the shoppers, rather than the parking places, that are at a premium," he said. "Businesses already pay once in terms of rates, their customers should not also have to pay, especially in towns crying out for increased footfall."