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Enterence to O Connell street. Photograph by John Kelly

Rates relief for Ennis traders?

ENNIS ratepayers are facing an “inordinate burden” due to increased valuation on properties while ongoing roadworks disrupt many businesses in the town centre the Mayor of Ennis has said.
Speaking at a recent meeting of the Ennis Municipal District, Councillor Pat Daly (FF) commented that for many ratepayers in Ennis, “They are finding it very difficult and business is way down”.
At the meeting he sought advice on “how best to postpone the inordinate burden on Ennis rate payers arising from the recent increase on valuation of properties, pending the completion of the current works taking place in the town.”
However he was informed that there is no mechanism in the absence of Ministerial approval for the waiving of all or part of the annual rates in any part of County Clare for upgrade and or development works.
Trina Rynne, Financial Accountant, Finance and Support Services,with Clare County Council told the meeting that in 2023 the National Revaluation programme, managed by Tailte Éireann, “aimed at ensuring that the rateable valuation of all commercial and industrial property in Ireland reflects the current business environment” was completed for County Clare.
The outcome of this process resulted in no increase in commercial rates year on year for this council she said.
In reviewing all properties within Ennis Municipal District, for 2024 commercial rates, six out of 10 rate payers are seeing a reduction; two of every 10 see an average increase of €220 per annum; and a further two of every 10 see an increase above €500 per annum.
“The exercise did result in increases for some properties, but it should be noted that all business owners were afforded the opportunity to query and or appeal the valuation during the process.
“Appeals for County Clare are 214 appeals out of 4,135 – which is 5.17% of all commercial properties under revaluation,” she stated.
She urged rate payers who are in difficulty meeting their liability to engage with their account manager and outlined details of commercial rates relief schemes.
Councillor Daly thanked her for the “positive reply as far as the rates are concerned,” however he added, “at the same time that’s no good to the people that are suffering in O’Connell Street.”
Councillor Daly called on the county manager to raise the matter with the County and City Management Association (CCMA) hoping they will support making a case to the Minister to provide relief for locations experiencing major works projects.
Backing the motion, Councillor Tom O’Callaghan (FF) stated it is a “difficult time” for many local businesses. He urged the county’s Oireachtas members to bring the matter to the attention of the minister saying, “I think it is very unfair to put another burden on these businesses at the moment”.
He continued, “We are very conscious of the works, and a lot of businesses are suffering. Some of them, their income has dropped by as much as 50%.”
He said despite the efforts of the council including signage indicating businesses are open, “People are simply just not going into their stores and they are seeing the footfall down.”
He asked about the possibility of the contractors working longer hours to reduce the time frame of the works. Councillor Clare Colleran Molloy (FF) stated her “heart does go out to the traders”, recalling how her husband businessman Tony Molloy recently told her “how heartbreaking it can be, how soul destroying to have nobody walk into your shop”.
She said that what business people are enduring at the moment “is pretty tough”, however many retailers are happy that the works are being undertaken.
“They know that the town will be a beautiful environment in which to shop and eat and enjoy into the future.”
She insisted the council are “sensitive to the traders and their difficulties” while supporting the idea of “some sort of joined up thinking in the revaluation process for areas that are undergoing this level of disturbance.”
Also supporting the motion, Councillor Mary Howard (FG)commented, “The reality is this is totally out of our gift, we cannot do it, this is from the minister.”
She said there needs to be greater promotion of the grants available. She highlighted many benefits the town enjoys due to the rates including the St Patrick’s Day Parade and the Christmas lights.
“I really hope there will be some initiative to allow a rates holiday for businesses that are being severely impacted by construction like in Ennis,” she said at the meeting.
She suggested the motion be sent to other local authoritiess so “that they would all agree and I think to have that critical mass of councils behind us might allow us to affect change”.
Sean Lenihan, senior engineer, confirmed the motion will be referred to Clare County Council’s chief executive to bring to the attention of the CCMA while the matter will also be relayed to the county’s Oireachtas members to raise with the minister.
He outlined some of the support for businesses the council has been involved with including through LEO and meeting with various business representative groups.
He confirmed the council would ask Shareridge about accelerating the works adding “I think people have seen a marked improvement” on the streets with the paving “ramped up significantly”.
Ms Rynne’s written response to the motion detailed that in 2023, where there was no pandemic waiver of commercial rates for any period, over 88% of commercial rates were paid in the year.
“Several businesses in the Ennis Municipal District have indicated some of their best years trading despite the post pandemic environment. Company Office Returns of trading data for several businesses substantiates this position.”
In relation to the current Public Realm enhancements for O’Connell Street, Barrack Street, Bank Place, and the Height, she stated, “this represents a significant investment by Clare County Council to greatly improve the area and enhance its attractiveness and accessibility for all and encourage continued and future investment in the town. €8.7M will be funded via Urban Regeneration Development Fund (URDF) with Clare County Council contributing an additional €3m in match funding, to complete this €12m project.
“Commercial Rates are the main funding source for the general provision of services by the Council and the match funding of this and many other schemes. It is important to note that this match funding investment on the two phases, URDF and a loan of €7.1m for the Ennis Library development, has in recent years been made from the annual budget process.
“There is no mechanism in the absence of Ministerial approval for the waiving of all or part of the annual Rates in any part of County Clare for upgrade and or development works. The Local Government Rates and Other Matters Act 2019 was passed by the Oireachtas in 2019. The overarching purpose of the Act was to modernise the collection of commercial rates.
“The Act contains provisions in Section 15 relating to potential Alleviation Schemes, that have not been commenced as ministerial regulations are pending. These provisions will empower the Elected Members of Local Authorities to devise and achieve policy objectives through locally targeted rates waiver schemes into the future subject to their annual budget process.”
While acknowledging “the justifiable concerns of the businesses” affected by these works there are schemes available in relation to commercial rates relief she outlined.
These are Small and Medium Enterprise Scheme where businesses with a commercial rates liability of up to €10,000 can avail of a 5% credit if they discharge their commercial rates per the terms of the scheme within the year, Hospitality Support Scheme where business with a commercial rates liability greater €10,000 can avail of a 5% credit, per the terms of the scheme, if they discharge their commercial rates in the year and the Long Term Vacant Property Incentive Scheme. Clare County Council operates this scheme to encourage the use of vacant commercial premises in towns and villages in Clare
There is also the Increased Cost of Business (ICOB) Grant which is operated by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

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