THERE is good news for businesses this week after Denis Brosnan said the county’s commercial rate is unlikely to rise when the two authorities merge.
There had been fears that when Limerick City Council and Limerick County Council amalgamate into a single local authority in 2014, the county’s commercial rate would rise to meet that of the city’s charge, which is significantly higher.
This came from fears that the savings generated administratively would not be enough to allow a drop in the rate. But at a meeting this week, Mr Brosnan – who is chairing the implementation group bringing the services together – said there can be no “discrimination” between urban and rural Limerick.
The man who also chaired the Mid-West Jobs Task Force, designed to get the region’s economy moving, in the wake of Dell shifting 1,900 jobs to Poland, expressed frustration that it had taken more than three years for the group’s recommendations to come to fruition.
And he said that to rebrand the area, an investment of between €10m and €12m is needed from government, with plans in place to designate Limerick as a City of Culture in 2014.
Mr Brosnan said Limerick must follow the same example of Derry and Liverpool, two cities which have gone from being run-down to being attractive.
“The rebranding of Derry, which commences in 2013 with it bring a City of Culture for Great Britain, is costing just under €30m. This is a spend over five years. You cannot rebrand any city in one year. It depends on how long we spend on the rebranding of Limerick. But we are talking about a minimum spend of €10m to €12m over five years,” he said.
He said it would be appropriate that Limerick becomes a City of Culture in 2014, as it is the first year of the new single local authority.
Speaking about the commercial rate, which stands at 59c per rate of valuation in the county, and 79c in the city area, Mr Brosnan said: “We have to get the balance right between the rural and the urban areas. We have to get to a single commercial rate, and this does not mean increasing the rate in the county so it is the same as the city. It is obviously the reverse of that.”
He confirmed that the director of the implementation of the merger Tom Enright has done “a lot of work” to prove the rate can be reduced.
Many councillors have expressed fear they could end up representing a much larger area when the merger happens.
“You will not draw circles on the inner city outwards. You will more likely draw spokes of a wheel. But every elected representative will represent an area greater than the core city itself,” he said.
A group is due to start work on the designing the new electoral areas. But Mr Brosnan indicated that the new wards could be the city area, and “two or three” areas representing different parts of Co Limerick.