Galway rates hike will fund 2020 bid

The Galway City Council has agreed a three per cent rise in commercial rates in the city next year, following agreement with local businesses, in order to fund the city’s European Capital of Culture 2020 bid.

The money, which according to Galway Chamber amounts to more than €1 million, will be ring fenced for projects related to the bid. The chamber supported the rise following consultations with the local authority, stating the bid was “of enormous importance to the city”.

City councillors adopted the budget, which provides for some €76.6 million in expenditure in the city next year, at a meeting on Monday evening. The local authority expects to collect some €36.5 million in rates next year, amounting to just under half the council’s annual income.

Galway City Council chief executive Brendan McGrath met with chamber representatives last week, who agreed to the increase on condition it be ring fenced for Galway 2020 projects and that a sunset clause be included, whereby the rate would be reduced if the 2020 bid is unsuccessful.

Mr McGrath told the council on Monday that the proceeds of the rates increase in 2016 would go towards the cultural projects planned as part of the bid. Regarding the sunset clause, he said that while the rate was set from year to year, the increase could be reversed in the 2017 budget if the capital of culture bid fails.

“Clearly it’s a matter for the council in 2017 if we haven’t succeeded,” he said. “Even if Galway is not successful a process has begun in this city which cannot be turned back. The cultural and business communities have identified a range of shared needs and that programme of activity must be driven foward whether Galway is successful or not.”

Mr McGrath said the chamber’s agreement on the rates increase was an “incredibly positive gesture”.

“The Galway business community has voted with its feet and said it is fully behind the capital of culture bid,” he added. “I can’t imagine any of the other cities or regions will be in that space.”

Councillors broadly lauded the chamber and city’s business community for getting behind the 2020 bid and agreeing to the rise. 

In a statement this week, president of Galway Chamber Frank Greene reiterated the chamber’s support for the increase and the city’s bid to become European Capital of Culture.

“It is the view of Galway Chamber that any increase in commercial rates is an extra taxation on businesses, already struggling with other outgoings in an economy that, while improving, is still not where we would like it to be,” Mr Greene said.

“Therefore we need transparency and constant updating going forward that this extra income to the city, over €1 million, is being used to ensure that Galway becomes the European Capital of Culture 2020, and that the ensuing upturn in the economy will benefit all business.”

The Galway 2020 team will find out tomorrow (Friday ) if the city has been shortlisted in the competition.

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