Despite some members of Castlebar Town Council saying last week they wanted a massive 10 per cent cut in rates in the town for 2010, the elected members settled on the figure of a 2.5 per cent cut in the rates.
At the opening of the budget meeting of Castlebar Town Council on Tuesday evening Fine Gael Councillor Brendan Heneghan outlined the need for a cut in rates to try to help the businesses in the town survive through the current economic hardships. “I urge all the councillors here to make savings, the onus is on us to do so. We have come through a tough year and we have to look ahead and protect the businesses in the town. And over the last few weeks, with the weather, the businesses have taken another hit.”
Labour Councillor Harry Barrett, while agreeing that businesses in the town were suffering through the economic downturn over the past few years, put forward his view that rates were not the big concern for a lot of people in the town. “I’ve been talking to people in the town and business people and the big concerns for them are the take over of estates, the state of the footpaths, accessibility, and the promotion of Castlebar rather than a cut in the rates. And while a cut in the rates will help the businesses, the real thing that seems to be hurting them is the high rents they have to pay on properties and lack of credit from banks, not the rates.” Cllr Barrett’s view on the high rents and the lack of credit from banks being a major hindrance to business was backed up by Sinn Féin Councillor Therese Ruane.
Independent Councillor Frank Durcan, who put forward his suggestion of a 10 per cent cut in rates again at the meeting, replying to Cllr Ruane’s interjection that of the top 24 rate payers in the town, only a small number were local businesses, told the meeting: “While the top 24 may only include a small number of local businesses, those top 24 are the 24 big employers in the town. And I’d put jobs before rates right now to keep as many people employed as we can. Businesses have seen a downturn in this town with a reduction in business from 25 per cent up to 80 per cent.”
When all the programmes were gone through in the budget by town manager Seamus Granahan, Fine Gael Councillor Eugene McCormack proposed a three per cent cut in the rates which would have seen the council having to make a €109,000 saving on the budget. However after a suggestion from the management that a reduction of 2.5 per cent would be more achievable, and some discussion between the members, where Cllr Durcan told the meeting: “You might as well give no cut at all”.
The motion to cut rates by 2.5 per cent was then proposed by Cllr McCormack and seconded by party colleague Cllr Ger Deere before being passed by the council. The members agreed to cut the spending allocated in the draft budget on the purchase of the military barracks from €127,000 to €100,000 for this year, cutting the Mayor’s allowance in June by €3,000 when the new mayor takes office, and cutting €15,000 from the original budgeted €50,000 for the Christmas lights in the town, and the rest of the money being found from parking charges in the town. The majority of the latter would come from the new pay and display system that will be operated in the Dunes Stores car park which the council runs. This car park will also operate on a pay and display basis on Sunday in the future, unlike the other pay and display parking operations in the town run by the council.