Last week’s shock announcement that the Athlone B&Q store faces closure is a direct result of the Government’s failure to tackle upward-only rents, according to local politicians.
Speaking as the news broke that B&Q Ireland had gone into examinership, with the possible loss of up to 45 jobs in Athlone, Sinn Féin’s Cllr Paul Hogan said: “The failure to tackle upward-only rents is yet another broken promise by this Fine Gael and Labour Government, and it is costing jobs in the retail sector.
“This is despite the fact that Sinn Féin brought forward legislation last year to end the practice of upward-only rents.
“And now we hear that B&Q Ireland has gone into examinership putting the jobs of 690 people at risk. It is also proposed to close the Athlone outlet with the potential loss of 44 jobs. This is a direct result of the Government’s failure to tackle upward-only rents.
“This Government came to power on a promise to address the jobs crisis. We are now two years into the term of office and there is no progress on the jobs front. The most recent Live Register figures for the Midlands indicate both an increase since last month, and compared to this time last year.
“Upward-only rents must be tackled if we are to avoid further crises in the retail sector. Every effort must be made in an attempt to save the Athlone outlet and protect the 44 jobs locally,” said Cllr Hogan.
Meanwhile Fianna Fáil’s Deputy Robert Troy said the Government needs to “immediately adopt a Fianna Fáil bill which called for the abolition of upward-only rent reviews”.
“The crisis in the retail sector gets worse every week; huge retailers like HMV and Blacktie have closed in recent weeks along with hundreds of local businesses throughout the country. My thoughts are with the employees of B&Q and their families at this difficult time,” said Deputy Troy.
“Fianna Fáil has appealed to the Minister for Jobs to establish a Retail Strategy to tackle this.
“The party has also published a bill calling on the Government to introduce legislation to abolish upward-only rent reviews. High rents are forcing tenants to shut their doors; in the midst of an economic recession it is madness that in many situations tenants can’t negotiate for a reduction in their rent.
“It is not enough for the Taoiseach to appeal to landlords to review their rents, legislation is needed to force these landlords to negotiate with their tenants.
“As long as the Government remains idle the more companies will be forced to close and the more people will be forced on the dole queues,” he added.