CLARE County Council is facing a potential deficit of €19.7 million as a result of the collapse in economic activity due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it emerged this week.
Deputy Cathal Crowe has called on the government to intervene with additional funding to prevent the need for the local authority to request businesses to pay commercial rates next August.
Even though local businesses have got a three-month commercial rates payment deferral, Deputy Crowe believes the government needs to address this issue to avoid a situation where the council will be seeking rates that are already owed.
The Meelick Deputy said it is unfair to pubs and restaurants to be paying full commercial rates next Autumn.
He pointed out a lot of the council’s expenditure can’t be cut because one of its biggest outlays is its wage bill.
If the council has to reduce expenditure, he expressed fears that works on capital projects such as roads will have to be scaled back.
“The government haven’t said there will be a scaling back of service provision so the council is proceedings with its planned works.
“Clare has a lot of tourism providers who will not be fully trading until next March. I don’t think there should be an expectation on them to pay rates. Clare is one of the most exposed local authorities to Covid-19.
Deputy Crowe said the council is different from other local authorities as a lot of its commercial rates income comes from a small number of ratepayers.
In fact, about 25% of the overall commercial rates revenue comes from Moneypoint Power Generating Station and Shannon Airport is also a big rate payer.
Having raised this issue in the Dáil recently, Minister of State, John Paul Phelan pledged he would respond to Deputy Crowe’s concerns in writing.
Councillor Ann Norton said councillors have been informed by chief executive, Pat Dowling there will be hard times ahead and difficult decisions will have to be made over the next few months in view of the economic impact of the virus.
A council spokeswoman said local authorities across the country have been impacted similarly as a result of Covid-19 both from lost income from a number of sources and the incurring of additional expenditure as they respond to the issues presented.
“Clare County Council is working closely with the department on all the areas impacted in our business and the funding of same.
“The council will be presenting our response to the Covid-19 pandemic at the June meeting,” she said.