The madness of upward only rent reviews and rates based on valuations dating back to the boom years is seeing small businesses in Galway "having to fork out for huge rates bills", while big utility companies can availing of substantially reduced rates.
Fianna Fáil Galway East councillor and Election 2016 candidate Anne Rabbitte has described this as "a ridiculous situation", which "threatens the future of small businesses right across east Galway". She said towns like Gort, Loughrea, Portumna, Tuam, Athenry and Ballinasloe have "come through the recession and are beginning to rebuild", but flawed policies regarding the rates system is "hampering that progress".
Cllr Rabbitte acknowledged that rates are needed to pay for local services and amenities, but she said the system as currently structured, with the reduction in utility company rates, is deeply imbalanced and is pitted against small businesses.
"The big utility companies like ESB, An Post and Eir as well as telecoms providers Vodafone and 3, can avail of substantially reduced rates while local businesses are expected to pick up the tab. This flies in the face of common sense," she said. "Many of these local businesses are paying rates based on valuations dating back to the boom years, when property prices were at their highest, and which bear no resemblance to the current situation."
Cllr Rabbitte is calling on the Government to "urgently reform the valuation system" for local commercial rates to ensure small businesses are not forced to subsidise large utility companies.
"The current system is not only wildly unfair, it is simply unfit for purpose," she said. "Local business realities must be factored in and the valuation intervals should be reduced from 10 years down to a maximum of five years. SMEs are the backbone of our communities – we need to ensure that they are given the supports to grow and a change to the rates valuation system would be a step in the right direction.”