Castlebar town councillor Harry Barrett has called on councillors to focus on what he has dubbed “the emergency jobs crisis” in Castlebar and has called for an urgent public meeting on the issue. Cllr Barrett made his call in the wake of the ongoing concern regarding the loss of 30 jobs in the Homebase outlet in Castlebar and a spate of recent closures of local businesses.
Cllr Barrett explained: “People are sick and tired of councillors scaremongering and arguing over nonsense. Families and businesses in this town want us to focus on jobs and how to stop the slow decline of the town. Local businesses are closing every week in Castlebar; Cavendish Lane is like a street in a ghost town and nothing is being said about it by councillors.
“I am calling for a major public meeting of all interested parties: councillors, chamber of commerce, regional IDA officials, the Mayo Industries Group, and anybody else who feel they have something solid to contribute to the debate. The crisis has moved beyond petty political point scoring. I am calling now on all councillors to engage with this initiative.”
The local Chamber of Commerce has responded to Cllr Barrett’s calls and offered to chair such a meeting. Chamber president Oliver Kelleher told the Mayo Advertiser that chamber representatives have already met with the town council at their monthly meeting in April to discuss the concerns of local businesses.
These concerns included rates, parking, infrastructure, and signage which Mr Kelleher said were the main deterrents to job creation and the maintenance of jobs in the county town.
At that meeting the point was made that all the multinational stores operating in the town provide free parking, yet small businesses are lumbered with paid for parking outside their doors.
According to Mr Kelleher, arising from that meeting the town manager Seamus Granahan gave a commitment to have signage erected in the town centre by October highlighting access to car parks and access from the car parks to the streets.
However he also expressed his disappointment that he had received no representations from the councillors following that meeting as to what actions would be taken to improve the jobs situation in the town.
“We will look at any proposals that deal seriously about jobs. I have attended eight meetings over the last year about job creation and very little action has been taken from those meetings,” Mr Kelleher said. He added that the council’s procurement policy had led to a “huge loss of jobs” in the area.
A survey conducted by the chamber where 140 businesses were asked about the issues which most affected the successful running of their business found that parking charges, rates, and insurance costs were the biggest factors.
The issue was due to be discussed at last night’s (Thursday ) meeting of the Chamber of Commerce. Anyone interested in getting participating in this open forum can contact Chamber secretary Sylvester Jennings through the Chamber office on Linenhall Street.
According to Cllr Barrett there will be no upturn in Castlebar until we get back to production again. “Retailers on Main Street are telling me that they want to see new money and new wage packets walking down Main Street on a Friday evening, every Friday evening spending that money on clothes, shoes, and whatever else. They say footfall is killing them and money is still very tight. This has to change.”
He continued: “The era of sitting on our hands and waiting for a big industrialist to come in to save us is over. The solution must come from ourselves and ways of putting together a package that will appeal to new or existing industry to expand in Castlebar so that new money can be generated for the town. A first step is a public meeting to thrash out ways in which this can be done.”