Business owners are being urged to appeal recently issued rate valuations before the February 25 deadline has passed.
A motion was raised by Independent councillor, Michael O’Brien, at this week’s Athlone Municipal District meeting (February 6 ).
Addressing the chamber, Cllr O’Brien said that the valuations could not have come at a worse time. He noted that many small and medium enterprises have struggled to keep their doors open for the last eight to 10 years during the economic recession, only to be hit with huge increases in rates when they are coming out the other side. He added that January and February are typically quiet months from a business perspective, so the news comes as an extra blow.
“There is much talk from Government regarding rural Ireland, but this move could be a death knell for rural areas,” Cllr O’Brien commented.
Cllr O’Brien called for a letter to be issued to Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the hope that some action can be taken to reverse the valuations.
Fianna Fáil councillor, Aengus O’Rourke, described the rates as a “slap in the face” for local business. He said the system appears to favour businesses with a “bigger footprint” in the town, while smaller businesses are being forced to pay higher rates. He added that between energy, insurance costs, and regulation charges, there are “tough times ahead” for those in business.
Cllr O’Rourke also said that it was important for councillors to come up with alternative ideas for the allocation of rates. He remarked that the Victorian system currently in use is “flawed” and “does not work”.
Sinn Féin’s Paul Hogan said the only alternative he sees is to base the rates on the profits of a business. He noted that some businesses had experienced an increase of 200, 300, and 400 per cent, and that pubs, shops, and petrol stations in particular had been hit hardest by the new allocations.
Fine Gael councillor, Tom Farrell, questioned why a small country store should have to pay the same kind of rates as a much bigger business in an urban environment.
Mayor John Dolan said that moving forward rate bands need to be introduced whereby businesses pay rates according to their size. He noted that rating businesses on their profits would be difficult as some multi-nationals do not declare their profits in this country, and said rate bands are therefore the way forward.
It was resolved that a letter will be sent to Taoiseach Enda Kenny on the matter, while councillors were also encouraged to contact their party colleagues currently sitting in the Dáil in order to get them behind the cause.