A “token” gesture that will cost the city many jobs, is how the Galway Chamber of Commerce has characterised this week’s decision to reduce the commercial rates by one per cent.
At Monday’s city council meeting, councillors voted to pass City Hall’s budget for 2011 by 10 votes to five. The Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael/ex-PD pact, with support from Independent councillor Catherine Connolly, voted through the measures, while Labour opposed.
The council had proposed that the commercial rate for businesses would not be increased but the Galway Chamber of Commerce called for a 10 per cent reduction, arguing that it would be necessary to save jobs.
In the run up to the meeting there was intense lobbying of city councillors by the Chamber of Commerce, IBEC, the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland, Galway, and the Irish Hotels Federation West to outline the difficulties businesses are having in relation to paying rates, when they also have to pay wages and costs, and keeping people employed, during a time of economic crisis and lack of consumer confidence.
On Monday, a reduction of one per cent was agreed. Fine Gael councillor Brian Walsh said the reduction was “justified” and “the best we could do”.
“I know what it’s like being in business, they are struggling, and costs have a knock on effect on employment,” he said. “Everything we do as a council from now on has to be focused on maintaining employment and stimulating job creation, and the one per cent reduction, while it is small, it will help.”
However the Chamber of Commerce has called the reduction a “token” gesture which will put jobs in Galway city at risk.
“The council has voted to maintain a €33 million rates burden on Galway businesses,” said chamber president, Carmel Brennan, “the vast majority of which are small businesses operating in vulnerable sectors such as retail and hospitality - jobs will be lost in these businesses.”