A NEW group founded to seek a reduction of the rates burden on business is set to meet with county manager Tom Coughlan next Monday, while it will hold its second public meeting on Tuesday night at 8pm in the Oakwood Arms.
“The next meeting will be more strategic, I suppose. It should have more about dealing with the issues. Within 12 hours of the first meeting, we had arranged a meeting with the county manager which is on Monday, so hopefully we’ll have some answers to the questions that people want asked at the next meeting,” said Darragh O’Connor, who operates the local Texaco station and is behind the meetings.
At the original meeting, the prospect of seeking a 30% reduction in rates was raised. Mr O’Connor said that is what’s required to protect jobs and businesses. “We were looking for at least 30% because we can’t see anything less than that being of benefit to business,” he said.
It was confirmed this week that a major reform of local government is imminent, with a reduction in the number of councillors, something he said would be very welcome. “It’ll all go to saving money for businesses. It couldn’t come at a better time,” he said.
While Mr O’Connor knows there isn’t much immediate hope of securing anything like a 30% cut in rates, he hopes the meeting with the county manager will be productive and feels that if enough businesses get behind the campaign, some success can be achieved.
“As I said at the first meeting, if people are really interested in doing something about this, come to the next meeting with two or three other businesses, let’s build a proper alliance and keep moving forward with it. We have to keep moving forward. It’s critical now that people realise that we do have power in numbers.”
He is unsure what steps businesses will want to take if there isn’t something positive coming from the county council but he said they may opt to withhold payment.
“What we had discussed is that until the council get their affairs in order and cut back on the waste that is going on, that we would pay 50% rates until such a time as we get value for our money.
“That would be the kind of strategy that we’re looking at; holding back 50% of the rates until such a time as they start spending our money properly.”
Mr O’Connor said there have been discussions with businesses beyond Shannon and a more broad-based movement might emerge.
“We have had discussions with businesses in Ennis. A couple of them came to our meeting and they were very impressed with it. They said that if we get a bigger crowd we could join forces and it’d snowball from there.”
Mr O’Connor said that while the first meeting was somewhat rambling, he expects next week’s one to be more focussed on the group’s strategy.