More must be done if town centres are to survive, according to Ennis Chamber.
Ennis Chamber and Chambers Ireland have called on Government to introduce measures to support business growth and job creation in town centres. The call comes following a presentation by the latter to the Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.
Ennis Chamber is calling on Clare County Council to reduce the county-wide rates to the Ennis town level, incentivise town centre locations for businesses and to give additional weight to local businesses in its procurement of goods and services.
According to Chambers Ireland, the Government can support the revival of town centres by reducing the cost of doing business in town centres and by implementing fair public procurement policies that do not discriminate against SMEs, among other measures.
Chambers Ireland chief executive, Ian Talbot said, “If our economic recovery is to be successful, it must be sustainable at a local level. Town centres have consistently suffered over the last number of years, due to a combination of out-of-town shopping centres, excessive car-parking charges and the high cost of doing business. Government can introduce a number of relatively simple measures that would have a great benefit for business in town centres.
“We recommend the introduction of a targeted rates reduction for companies, located within town centres, which provide much-needed employment and contribute to the quality of life in these areas. Car-parking costs must be applied strategically to increase footfall in certain areas, thereby supporting businesses and jobs. We also urge any local authority considering a 15% reduction in the Local Property Tax to have a plan in place to cover these costs and not look to business to foot the bill,” he continued.
Ennis Chamber, meanwhile, is calling for Clare rates to be reduced to the level of the rates that are in place in Ennis, something which would see an 11% drop in the rates charged to businesses outside of the town.
“Up to now, businesses in Shannon Town Centre were subject to the county-wide rate, Kilrush businesses paid different rates and Ennis paid different ones again and Kilkee wasn’t a rating town council. So businesses in different parts of the county all paid different rates. The County Clare rates are 11% higher than they are in Ennis and we would like to see the whole county unified on the existing Ennis rate, which would benefit all the businesses in the county, rather than it increasing for Ennis businesses and there being no reduction for anyone else,” Rita McInerney, CEO of Ennis Chamber explained.
“The biggest fear at the moment is in relation to rates because of the difference between the county rate and the Ennis town rate. There is a concern among businesses that there will be an increase in rates in Ennis, to align them to the county rate. Because of the abolition of town councils, the department is saying it will give 10 years to county councils to harmonise their rates. There is no clarity around this at the moment and businesses need that sense of clarity and consistency in terms of knowing what the rates they will have to pay over the next few years will be. We would call for the reduction of rates around the county to reflect the rate in the town,” she said.
“Businesses have cut costs where they can, be it by shopping around for electricity, for fuel, re-negotiating rents, adjustment of staff hours so they are running a tight ship, but you can’t negotiate on your rates. They are fixed and they are set from one source. Our point would be that if businesses can grow and develop, they can employ more people. For every one job created, another job is created because it has a multiplier effect,” Ms McInerney added.