"If we fail to protect businesses in Galway it will have far-reaching consequences. Not only will the economy and jobs be impacted, but we can kiss good-bye to a vibrant city centre populated with diverse independent and international stores."
This is the view of Fine Gael Galway City West councillor, Clodagh Higgins, who is calling on the Galway City Council to establish a business forum to tackle the "huge challenges businesses are facing due to Covid-19".
Cllr Higgins was reacting to Debenhams announcement that its 11 stores, including its Galway branch, are "not expected to reopen" after the coronavirus pandemic.
“When you see anchor tenants and retailers who have been around for decades closing up shop in the early stage of Covid-19, that just begs the question, how many other family-run businesses will slip away unnoticed?" she said.
While Cllr Higgins has welcomed the Government's support measures, she said "a hands-on approach at local level" is also needed to assist these businesses. As a result, she has contacted the Chief Executive of the Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, asking him to establish a business forum "without delay".
'Such a forum must drive initiatives forward that will ensure Galway is not left lagging behind when the recovery starts'
She is proposing that the forum would include business stakeholders from retail, hospitality, tourism, media, and transport, with representatives from the State agencies like the Local Enterprise Office, Enterprise Ireland, the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, and the Department of Employment Affairs.
"To be relevant it must have teeth and drive initiatives forward that will ensure Galway is not left lagging behind when the recovery starts," she said. "The council must take the lead in assisting businesses because by assisting business we are also assisting our citizens and communities."