SINN Fein councillors in Limerick have warned that Limerick City and County Council is facing a budget hole of over €2m and that services could be cut to close the funding gap.
The shortfall of €2.45m has come about as a result of a rates re-evaluation which was carried out throughout the country over the past year.
As a result, Cllrs Maurice Quinlivan and Seamus Browne have claimed, a string of large profitable utility companies will pay up to €21m less in rates in 2016.
These companies, they state, include Vodafone, Meteor, 3Ireland, BT Ireland, Eir, ESB and windfarms.
Every local authority has been affected by the re-evaluation, the councillors point out, but Limerick, proportionately speaking, is the worst affected.
It stands to lose €2.45m from its annual rates take, leaving a significant funding gap for 2016. The revelation about this shortfall comes just one week before the council agrees its 2016 budget.
“Some of these companies are set to get massive cuts in their rates, some up to the tune of 50%, whilst at the same time our council is struggling with housing, housing maintenance, maintaining the bin waiver and many other basic local services,” Cllr Quinlivan said.
And he warned that the council could be forced to cut services or increase the business rate on small businesses or both.
“This is the direct opposite to what should be happening. We in Sinn Féin have been calling for a progressive business rate to help small businesses who are struggling to survive,” he said.
“We were told when the revaluation process was occurring across Limerick this year that it would be cost neutral, there would be winners and losers. But this is not what happened.
“We believe that the profitability of the business should be an element of the evaluation for the rate,” Cllr Quinlivan said.
In Northern Ireland, a new 15% levy was introduced on large, multiple stores in order to subsidise a rates relief for small businesses, he pointed out.
“Despite our calls the government has stubbornly refused to reform business rates.”