The tough balancing act of coming up with a balanced budget for 2010 looks to be getting harder for the executive of Castlebar Town Council. Next Tuesday the council will meet to try to thrash out a budget for the coming year, Town manager Seamus Granahan has recommend a zero per cent increase in the rates for business in the town in his manager’s report. However for the councillors that is not good enough as a number of independent councillors and the Fine Gael councillors will be looking for a reduction in the rates.
Independent councillor Frank Durcan, who returned to the council last summer, is looking for a massive 10 per cent cuts to the rate to try to protect jobs in the town. “I’ll be looking for a 10 per cent cut in the rate,” he said. “The small business person can’t afford the charges any more, it’s about protecting jobs in the small business which are the backbone of this town, and we have to help them try and get over this year and move on again hopefully next year.”
Cllr Durcan sees the influx of money into the council’s coffers from the second home levy as being a good place to take the money from to help with the cut in rates. “We’re getting a kind of bonus this year with the second home levy coming into the budget so it somewhere we can start with. This year is about protecting jobs and providing essential services which are the real business of the council. We’ll have to cut our cloth for next year and move on again in the future.”
Another councillor looking for a cut to the rates is Independent councillor Michael Kilcoyne. The current mayor of the town was adamant that he would not vote for anything apart from a cut. “I won’t vote for anything less than a three per cent cut in the rate. Every councillor has to make up their own mind, but for me nothing less than a three per cent cut is acceptable. In reality wages have dropped and we are in a deflationary period and we should be getting a rates drop of around four or five per cent, but nothing less than three per cent will do.”
The Fine Gael members of the council will also be looking for a reduction in the rates in the town at the upcoming meeting. Cllr Ger Deere, who was elected to the council at the last local elections, told the Mayo Advertiser this week: “We’ll be looking for a cut in the rates of between three and five per cent at the monthly meeting. We will have to go through the figures again over the weekend to identify where we can make the saving so we can pass on a reduction to the business people in the town.
“We’ll be looking at things like administration costs and parking charges in the town to try and see where we can save some money.”
Cllr Deere also said that this year was about making sure that jobs were protected in the town. “This year we have to try and protect the jobs we have in the town and see where we can possibly see some more created to ensure that small businesses are protected as much as they can be from going out of business.”
Labour Party councillor Harry Barrett told the Mayo Advertiser that this year’s budget was all about doing their best for the traders in the town in relation to the rates. “It’s been a tough year for the traders and we do rely on huge amounts of rates from the traders. We will try to do our best to help them and try and protect the jobs in the town, but services have to maintained in the town also.” Cllr Barrett also said that it was not just rates that were causing business problems in the town. “I was speaking to a trader in the town this week and he said it wasn’t just rates that were causing business to suffer. He said: ‘It’s not the rates that will come and close you down, it’s the banks,’ and he’s right. The banks are making things very hard for a lot of small businesses in the town.”