Next Monday’s Mayo County Council budget meeting is sure to see a vivacious debate on the issue of rate increases for business in 2009. County Manager Des Mahon informed the monthly meeting of the authority that the council would be seeking a two per cent increase in the rate for 2009. The news was not greeted well by the majority of the members present, Ballinrobe-based Fine Gael Cllr Patsy O’Brien had a motion on the agenda calling on the council not to increase either the water charges or the rate for 2009. Cllr O’Brien’s proposal received support from both sides of the house. The councillor said: “In this current climate, there should be no increase, because the fact is that many small business in the county which have been the backbone of the rural economy for many years are only barely surviving at the minute.” He went on to put a proposal to the council as to how the rate should be struck for each business on a case by case basis. “I think it would be much fairer to calculate the rate as a percentage of the overall turnover of a business for a year, rather than the flat rate we have at the minute.”
Fianna Fáil Cllr Tim Quinn, supporting the motion, stated: “These big supermarkets that are moving into the county always get a big welcome for the jobs that they say they will create. But the reality is they don’t create jobs, they just move them around from the smaller shop that closes down because it can’t compete with them.” Cllr Quinn also commented on the fact that the large numbers of shoppers who are going to Northern Ireland to do their shopping is a very worrying trend. Westport-based councillor Margaret Adams told the meeting that she hoped developers and property owners would also do their bit to keep business up and running, by not asking leaseholders for unrealistic rents in these harsh economic times.
Straying slightly from the line taken by the majority of the councillors in the chamber, Fine Gael whip Paddy McGuinness told the meeting: “I have never heard of a business closing down just because of a rate increase, it’s down to a number of factors that combine to cause a business to close down. I just want to make sure that this gets out there so the people in Mayo don’t think that an increase in the rates alone will cause a business to close down. But I am still only too aware that we have to do all we can to support the smaller business in the towns.” County Manager Des Mahon told the meeting that the suggestion of the rate being based on the turnover of a business is something that is being looked at by the Department of Taxation at the minute, but as it is “we are tied by legislation as to how we strike a rate. I do believe that we do our best for small business in the towns around the county.”