Limerick council could probe why businesses close following unanimous motion

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

Motion: Cllr Daniel Butler

Motion: Cllr Daniel Butler

A STUDY on why businesses across Limerick city centre continue to close despite the economic upturn could be on the way.

It comes after councillors unanimously passed a motion on the matter at this week’s economic meeting.

Fine Gael councillor Daniel Butler saw his motion passed without opposition from fellow members at this week’s economic committee meeting.

He wants to see the research will inform the development of a more effective policy backing city centre businesses.

“We have had lots of suggestions as to why businesses are not succeeding. But rather than us suggest these reasons, I thought it would be a better use of our time to engage with these businesses. It will allow us to form policy on how to address these challenges for the future,” he told the meeting.

However, head of enterprise Eamon Ryan said he did not think it was “feasible” for the council to be doing this – and suggested the Limerick Chamber could be the body asked to act.

But Cllr James Collins hit back, saying: “For the council to come in and say it’s someone else’s job, I feel is unacceptable. We have a responsibility to these retailers. Our role as a council is to provide a vibrant city centre with heavy footfall.”

Sinn Fein councillor Séighin Ó Ceallaigh said: “I’m sure businesses would co-operate. There should be no businesses closing, and no empty units for all the things we as a council are doing.”

He said this, pointing to the St Patrick’s Day and Riverfest celebrations.

Cllr Joe Leddin, Labour, pointed out the second biggest employer in Limerick is now retail.

“In that sense, the council has a vital role to play. The backbone of the economy is SME. From speaking to retailers, there are myriad different challenges.”

Cllr Butler suggested uniform opening hours, as is the case in the Crescent Shopping Centre. “Brown Thomas tell me Sunday is one of its most profitable days. But half the city centre is closed. Why is this,” he asked.

Following the debate, Mr Ryan appeared to change tack, saying he now agreed with the spirit of the motion.

But he called for an amendment to the suggestion from Cllr Butler that a database would be kept.

He felt that would be difficult to maintain, and also pointed out Limerick finds itself at a disadvantage because of a lack of a manager dedicated to improving the city centre within the local authority’s economic directorate.

Cllr Butler agreed to remove the reference to a database.

Mayor Stephen Keary suggested students from the University of Limerick could be drafted in to carry out the research among business owners.

The motion will go forward to the metropolitan district meeting next week.