While the commercial rates are likely to be frozen in this year’s Galway City Council budget, a planned hike in water charges will be “another noose around the necks” of struggling businesses in Galway.
This is the view of Labour councillor and local businessman Niall McNelis who described the proposed hike as “another tax” on city businesses “already struggling” from a combination of the economic downturn and the unprecedented heavy rain of the last week.
It is understood that the rates look set to be hiked by 30c from €1.60 to €1.90 per cubic metre. While a 30c raise does not seem like very much, Cllr McNelis says the overall costs will run into thousands for hotels, restaurants, and retailers.
“An average water charge could be €110,000 a year,” he told the Galway Advertiser, “but an increase of 30c per cubic metre adds up to a 12 per cent increase on top of what is already paid out annually.
“Staff have already had to take pay cuts due to the downturn,” he says, “and with the terrible weather people are not coming in to town. I know of businesses that have taken in nothing in the past three days.”
Cllr McNelis said enough businesses have already closed down and that Galway cannot afford any more closures.
“An increase in the water charges will hit struggling businesses,” he said, “and if more close down that creates more unemployment and means less rate payers which means less money for the council to carry out essential services. We should be helping businesses instead of putting another noose around their necks.”
However Fianna Fáil councillor Ollie Crowe estimates the increase could work out at 20 per cent.
“This is outrageous,” he said. “City business people are already stretched. Another increase of any type of commercial rate will result in further business closures. The council should be trying to nurture enterprise in the city considering there are approximately 90 vacant units across the city.”