Commercial rates are set to be debated next Monday at the October meeting of Athlone Town Council following a motion put forward by Cllr Alan Shaw in September.
Cllr Shaw has previously highlighted the fact that the 2009 Council budget, introduced by the previous town council, increased commercial rates by one per cent when the average cost of living fell by 4.5 per cent (Average CPI 2009 ). The resulting erosion of competitiveness is adding to the difficulties being experienced on the ground by local businesses and enterprise.
For decades, local authorities used the rate of inflation as a benchmark for increases in local authority rates. Last year during the course of Fine Gael’s consultation process with businesses around the country very strong concerns were raised by businesses and their representative bodies about local authority business rates. There was a worry among businesses that councils would simply increase their business tax to plug the gap in their finances caused by decreased Government grants. Many businesses expressed the opinion that rates should uniformly drop in line with decreasing inflation and business activity.
According to Cllr Shaw, enterprise needs our support now and the council must respond.
Cllr Shaw has expressed greatest concern for the ongoing difficulties of the retail sector and the need to safeguard employment. Where high costs prevail, they damage competitiveness and ultimately cost jobs.
“As an open economy, we need to be mindful that foreign direct investment is critical to our recovery and in this regard maintaining lower charges than our competitor countries is essential,” he stated
The forthcoming debate on commercial rates provides council members with an opportunity to set out their positions on rates well ahead of framing the 2011 budget.