A motion by Cllr Aengus O’Rourke to invite the town’s business people to meet with the council was met with resistance at Monday’s town council meeting.
Cllr O’Rourke was proposing to invite local business owners to engage in a forum with elected members in advance of the December budget.
“Both the business community and the council could benefit from such a forum. We could issue an invitation to our customers to come before us and share their suggestions, concerns, and questions. This is happening in a number of other local authority areas,” he said.
However, his idea was shot down by Cllrs Cooney and Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran. Cllr Cooney said that while he appreciated the thrust of the motion, he felt councillors were more than aware of the expectations of the business people of the town.
“I feel we are more than aware how the business community feel, and we have always taken their views to the council. In recent years we have met their expectations - maybe not to the extent they would like but that’s not possible. It’s a balance we get. We are aware of the needs of the business community, and of the need for the council to raise finance.”
He added that he had no difficulty with a representative group such as the chamber of commerce coming to meet councillors and set out their arguments.
Cllr Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran pointed out that the majority of the elected members are in business and self-employed.
“We understand business and the areas that need looking at. Look at what we are giving to the town in terms of festivals and other events - we couldn’t do that without the help of rate payers. If we pull back rates we couldn’t do that, we’d have nothing for roads etc. I’m not condemning the motion, but we don’t need to meet every business. We would end up having a fighting match and not agreeing on anything.”
“I would give people more credit than to start a fight,” retorted Cllr O’Rourke, whose motion was supported only by Cllr Sheila Buckley Byrne, who herself had made a similar suggestion some months ago.
“It’s about listening to business people; sometimes it’s nice to invite people in to speak to us. Ordinary people are looking to voice their hardships, and there are wider issues - it’s not just about rates. We are missing the point of connecting directly with people,” she said.