ENNIS Municipal District has backed a call for Clare County Council to freeze commercial rates at their current level in the old Ennis Town Council area for the next three years, to give stability to businesses, in order for them to grow and expand.
Councillor Tom McNamara raised the matter at the monthly district meeting, telling members that businesses in the town need a timeframe so they would know exactly where they stand for the next three years, allowing them to “expand their businesses and create growth” and job creation.
The Kilmaley councillor asked the meeting to back his motion and to allow it to go to the full council meeting, saying, “We need to give them [Ennis businesses] the security to know that Clare County Council won’t be increasing the rates in the town for three years at least and to hope the economy will improve in that time. Then we can have a relook at it and people might be able to move on from there.”
Councillor McNamara repeated his criticism of the Government decision to take 20% of the €10 million local property tax raised in Clare and put it into an equalisation fund.
He also slammed the move to redirect €3.5 million of the property tax by reducing Clare’s roads programme funding.
“We, as a council and a town council, didn’t reduce rates because we were advised not to. In our neighbouring county of Limerick, they have been reducing them for the last number of years and now our property tax is shoring up businesses in Limerick. That’s totally unacceptable,” Councillor McNamara said.
Councillor Ann Norton supported the motion and said she had noticed the number of shops that have closed in Ennis and added that the only shops doing well seem to be mobile phone shops and €2 shops.
“It’s an awful shame to see so many buildings closed down and a lot of it is due to the fact that commercial rates and rents are so high,” said the Barefield councillor.
She felt, with the downturn in the economy in recent years, that now would be a good time to give them a chance to recover, to show the council’s support for businesses in Ennis and to encourage young people to open new businesses.
Mayor Johnny Flynn said he would like to see his Rates For Recovery proposal of a three-year sliding scale of rates for start-ups adopted by the council.
This involves a three-year rates rebate (year one of 50%; year two of 25%; and in year three of 10%). However, Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy said she feared that introducing this type of scheme would attract fly-by-night operators, who might pack up within the three years.
The Fianna Fáil councillor suggested that it might be better if the rebate scale was reversed, to encourage new businesses to continue in Ennis.
Councillor Pat Daly supported the rates freeze and said there is no money to start new businesses in Ennis and shops are closing because of the nearby centres of Limerick and Galway.
He said many of the businesses in Ennis are struggling to pay their rates and try to pay them on a monthly basis.