Mullingar’s Aidan Davitt says faceless bureaucrats and civil servants are so out of touch with the reality of business, that they should take inspiration from the TV programme, The Takeover.
He suggested they might find out how difficult it is to run a business if they did.
“They haven’t a clue about what’s going on in the real world,” he said, referring to their decisions and policies as “dictats”.
“They should get a spin out in private industry - then they’d have a different perspective on business,” he said.
He was supporting a motion put forward by Cllr Bill Collentine, who called for a rate reduction for small businesses.
Cllr Collentine, who runs a plumbing business, said it’s hard for people in business in the town to survive, and called for a new approach to rates.
He said it made no sense that businesses are paying the same as in previous years while they have fewer staff.
He suggested that profit, turnover, ability to pay, and staffing levels should be taken into consideration.
“It’s an unfair tax and it should be looked at,” he said.
Cllr Mick Dollard said rates are a small part of the outgoings of small businesses, but from large multinationals they contribute a huge amount to the town.
A small cut to those big companies would have a huge impact on the council’s income and any reductions should be carefully considered.
He said unsustainably high rents were forcing companies out of business, but Cllr Aidan Davitt disagreed, saying rents are down 70 per cent and landlords are doing everything they can to hold on to tenants.
Cllr Peter Burke supported the motion, saying the rates system goes back to the 1800s, but had similar concerns to Cllr Dollard, saying that 20 per cent of the ratepayers pay 80 per cent of the rates.
He said he was aware that businesses are under severe cash flow pressure but reminded his colleagues that the council is very supportive with providing payment mechanisms. But he urged perspective.
“At the end of the day, if a business closes down, rates are not the single bullet that killed the business,” he concluded.
Cllr Ken Glynn supported the motion but disagreed that rates are a small part of the problem.
“Rates are a huge burden because it’s another bill,” he said, adding that it’s vital to get the town centre going again.
Because her father ran a small business in the town for more than 40 years, Cllr Ruth Illingworth said she understood the difficulties of staying in business, and said those who own retail premises don’t have regular working hours.
“They are the lifeblood of this town,” she said.
Cllr Sheridan, a former rates officer in the county, described the current formulas for assessing rates as “ridiculous”.