By Noel Dundon
Calls have been made to reduce the commercial rate and charges on public houses and businesses in rural parts of North Tipperary in a bid to keep business going and ease the burden on those trying to keep the doors opened.
At a lengthy debate at the monthly meeting of North Tipperary County Council this week, Councillor Billy Clancy suggested that the rates imposed on rural public houses and businesses should be different to others, due to the fact that they simply do not have the same footfall and are providing as much of a social service as anything else.
Councillor Clancy’s comments received a lot of support in the chamber after the debate had been sparked by Councillor Seamus Hanafin’s plea for the local authority to give business people every possible chance to pay their rates.
“We should do absolutely everything we can to work with people on this – especially people who might be in arrears. Things are extremely tough out there and I believe that we should be doing everything we can to try and help people through the current economic difficulties,”Cllr Hanafin said.
Councillor Seamie Morris went a step further and extended his congratulations to everyone who is managing to keep their heads above water. He added that Irish people had to change their attitude towards business failure and become more like the US where it is not seen as such a big deal.
Councillor Clancy added to the debate by stating that it is hardly fair to be charging the same level of rates to a rural public house which may have 3 or 4 customers per night. Many of these quaint public houses act as tourist attractions in rural parts of the county, he said, and he added that the council should look at the provision in the rates law, which allows them to examine each business on it’s own merits.
Councillor Clancy added that a similar type problem existed back through the years with old stately houses and castles. Many owners simply allowed the buildings to fall into ruin because they could not afford for their up-keep. This was a huge loss to the heritage of the country, he said and he did not wish to see rural pubs closing as well.
Councillor Pauline Coonan suggested that the council should source everything they use from within the county in a bid to promote local business and industry. And, she agreed with Cllr Clancy that rural public houses should be regarded as special cases when it comes to rates.
“If a pub is open in the countryside from 8:00pm at night time it is providing a social service for people to come along and chat. This is a huge help for peoples mental health and the crazy thing is that they are paying the same rates now as they were during the boom years. We should be encouraging them to stay open rather than seeing them sell their license. Perhaps we should look at the rate base in terms of income rather than square footage,” she said.
Councillor John Hogan offered the view that small rural shops and garages should also be included while Cllr Virginia O’Dowd encouraged the council to hold a seminar in the council chamber with business consultants and experts present to help promote business and good practice. She also appealed to property owners to look at more market friendly rents in order the reduce business costs.
Councillor Jim Ryan agreed with Cllr Coonan that the valuation figures are off the mark stating that they were based on a market for 1995, while Cllr Matty Ryan said that the hearts has been torn out of rural Ireland in recent years. Anything that could be done to help reverse this trend, should be done, he said.
Council Official Mr Liam McCarthy said the the council has a policy of encouraging rate payers to come to them and talk out any difficulties they may be having. The council is working through a lot of issues on a case by case basis, he said, and he added that a valuation revision is in the pipeline – one is underway in Dublin at the present time, but it will take some time for it to be undertaken in North Tipperary.