Councillors from the Claremorris electoral area questioned the possibility of cutting parking charges and rates in the town to stimulate business during the current economic downturn. Cllr Tom Connolly told a meeting of the local electoral area committee that the argument is being made that the on street traders are at a serious disadvantage because people have to pay to park to use their business while the larger stores like SuperValu, Tesco, and Lidl are at an advantage because they have large sites offering free parking in the town.
Senior executive officer for Mayo County Council Padraic Flanagan told Cllr Connolly: “We can look at the situation while we carry out the review of the pay and display in the town which will be happening shortly, and see what we can do. But we already have in the town one of the lowest charges for on street parking at the minute at 30 cent per half hour, you only have to look at other towns like Castlebar which are putting up their charges.” Cllr Connolly recognised that pay and display is a good idea and does free up congestion on the streets, but he maintained that something should be done so that the on street business can compete with the large stores. A free time limit would cause some problems according to Patsy Bourke, senior engineer for the council, who told Cllr Connolly: “The free parking scheme would cause a number of problems such as enforcement, as it would be nearly impossible to enforce.”
Rates crippling businesses
Cllr John Cribben raised the issue of commercial rates which he said were crippling business in the current economic climate. “I’ve received representations from numerous businesses in relation to rates. They have been receiving notification of the rate charges for the year which are similar to last year, yet in some cases their business is down up to 50 per cent from this time last year. One business man told me that a €50 note is as rare as hen’s teeth these days.” Director of services Seamus Granhan told the meeting: “The rates are statutory and set by yourselves, the rates aren’t set by turnover, you set the multiplier which is used and the rates calculated on the size of the premises not on how much money flows through the till. Things are tough on people and we know that, but the last thing we want to do is be bringing people into court for not paying them. They should speak to the local rate collector if they can’t pay the first six months in one go, and they can work out a payment by instalment with them. Because rates are a statutory thing, it would require a change in legislation to change the way they are applied to small business compared to large ones.”