Further supports necessary as local economy seeks to recover from pandemic

Athlone Town Mayor, Cllr. Aengus O’Rourke, has called upon the Government to inject further stimulus into the economy, noting the need for further grant initiatives as the local business community strives to recover from the detrimental impact of COVID-19.

“I welcome the initiatives in the Government’s July stimulus package, particularly the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme which, in my view, is the most effective element of all measures.

“The increases to the Restart Grants both in terms of amount and scope is also to be welcomed. The way to get Ireland’s economic wheels moving again in a meaningful way is with liquidity and I believe most effective way of doing this is by injecting cash by way of grants into the SME sector. Providing cheap loans is not the manner in which to do it. No business in their right mind would want to replace a liquidity crisis with a debt crisis.

“So, on that score, while I welcome the increases to the Restart Grants, I think they could have been increased further,” Cllr. O’Rourke commented.

The Town Mayor asserted is view pertaining to the staycation voucher which has been detailed in the economic stimulus package.

“I believe the staycation voucher has not gone far enough either to help the industry most impacted by the pandemic, the hospitality sector. I was very surprised that the measures announced did not include a more meaningful cut in the rate of VAT for hotels, restaurants and the accommodation sector. A return of the nine percent rate is badly needed.

“While the July Stimulus has hit the mark in many ways it will need to be refined and revised in the months ahead. Budget 2021 is only a couple of months away, that is the time to rethink the measures that may need adjustment,” Cllr. O’Rourke stated.

The local businessman believes it is now time to abandon the existing commercial rates system currently in operation within the economy.

“This is also the opportunity to do away completely with our Victorian commercial rates system that we have in this country. It is neither logical or fair in its application, it is a blunt instrument when it comes to funding local authorities.

“The Government should take this opportunity to abolish the commercial rates system altogether and introduce a fairer more relevant local system of taxation for businesses,2 Cllr. O’Rourke concluded.


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