Officials at Galway City Council will not be proposing a reduction in commercial rates in the upcoming budget.
Despite ongoing pleas from the beleaguered local business community, the Galway Independent can reveal Galway City Council will not be following their Dublin City Council counterpart’s lead and plans to maintain the current €65.46 rate for 2012. Dublin City Council this week announced it is to reduce commercial rates by 1.7 per cent to ease pressure on businesses.
While it is understood that no reduction has been included by the council in the Draft Budget for 2012, councillors could negotiate a reduction during the annual budget meeting on Monday 5 December.
Speaking to the Galway Independent, Cllr Ollie Crowe said that some businesses in the Eyre Square area are paying up to six-figure sums in commercial rates. He blasted the council for refusing to show solidarity with the local business community.
“They seem to be set in their ways. I don’t think that the senior executive understand the major difficulties that businesses are going through at the moment and, certainly, they need to show support and leadership. They just seem to have this laissez fair attitude and are never proactive in trying to reduce rates for the local businesses,” he explained.
Cllr Crowe said that implementing rates for vacant units in Galway City would provide additional revenue for the council, as well as providing an incentive for landlords to lower prohibitive rents for tenants.
“It’s come up time and time again. In Limerick, Cork, Waterford etc, landlords are charged 50 per cent of the commercial rate for their empty units. In Galway, there are no rates charged on empty units and, as a result, we have hundreds vacant across the city. If Galway City Council implemented the same rules as other counties, landlords would do all within their power to lower their rents and find tenants to avoid paying €25,000 to €30,000 rates on empty buildings and both the council and local businesses would benefit. We’re at a total disadvantage with regards to other cities.”
However, there is still light at the end of tunnel for local companies, as Cllr Crowe revealed that negotiations are ongoing among councillors at present to come up with a plan to lower the rate by up to two per cent. He explained that councillors are optimistic they can continue the downward trend introduced in recent years and are currently attempting to balance the budget in favour of Galway businesses.
“There was a decrease of one per cent last year and one per cent the previous year, so obviously we are trying to work with the business community. We are having a series of meetings at the moment and we are trying to get a reduction of between one and two per cent if we can work it but obviously that money has to come from another area. I run a business myself and everybody knows that we are in extraordinarily difficult times. We have only two weeks left to the meeting, so I will be calling on the Fine Gael and Independent councillors to work with us and come up with a solution to give the businesses here something back.”
Galway Chamber CEO Michael Coyle called for a reduction of ten per cent in commercial rates, saying that expansive savings could be found in the running costs associated with the local authority.
“A series of areas where savings could be made were outlined in the Local Government Efficiency Review Group, but we’ve seen no tangible evidence of these being introduced. We think there should be a target of ten per cent in savings in the running of local government across the country and these savings passed on to business through an equal reduction in commercial rates. We have outlined these proposals to the Government in our pre-Budget submissions for the last number of years but there seems to have been little progress on implementing them.”
A spokesperson for Galway City Council said yesterday that it would not be commenting on details of the Draft Budget until details are released next Monday, 5 December.