CITY centre traders, stretched to breaking point by falling trade, have indicated they may have to stop paying local authority rates in order to survive.
More than 300 traders attended a meeting in the Strand Hotel on Tuesday night for the launch of a campaign aimed at securing a fairer rates system. The meeting, organised by Employers for Affordable Rates (EAR), was one of a series of public meetings organised across Ireland.
Nationally, businesses paid €1.35m in commercial rates last year, with rates on average increasing by 47 per cent over the last ten years - despite the downturn.
John Conran, the national chairman of the group pointed out that there is no right of appeal against high rates for struggling businesses, while Mark Fielding, chief executive of the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) described the commercial rate as a “local stealth tax” that is not linked to the ability to pay.“We cannot continue to fund the voracious appetite of local councils,” he said.
Frank Hogan, Hogan’s Butchers, William Street was one of the annoyed business people
“I think the government need us to realise in no uncertain terms that if they don’t move it, we have to switch off the light.”
Limerick’s Vincent Jennings, chief executive of convenience stores association said: “I don’t know how Limerick City Council can imagine they are providing a level of service in the William Street area, when there is roadworks. They are still claiming full rates.The whole street and businesses are suffering, but they still have an expectation to take full rates from you.
“This shows the level of frustration and problems middle Ireland is having by being the sole provider to local authorities of income. I hope there is an understanding by local authorities, and more importantly, the Minister for the Environment that there needs to be a root and branch change to the way local authorities are funded,” he added.
Cllr James Collins, who runs Collins bar in Dooradoyle, currently outside the city boundary, said: “Our rates are very high. We have had to cut our cloth to measure.”