The Waterford TD wants the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government to clarify the situation facing businesses in soon-to-be-abolished Town Council areas post-amalgamation.
“In this economic environment, which has been disastrous for retail in particular, an increase in local authority rates would sound the death knell for many businesses,” he fears.
Mr Deasy raised the “problematic” area of rates equalisation with senior Department officials at Public Accounts Committee level last December and they acknowledged it is a concern.” He pointed to the “massive divergence” in Annual Rateable Valuations among local authorities around the country, confirmed in figures gleaned by way of a Dáil question earlier this year.
“So far the Department response has been about achieving ‘rates harmonisation’ on a county-wide basis – possibly, but not categorically, around the lower commercial rate in contiguous council areas. However, when you see the huge difference between the rateable valuations in Dungarvan and Waterford City in 2012 [60.37 and 66.22 respectively], the local business community are rightly concerned. That Waterford County Council’s ARV is 69.92 has hardly helped Tramore,” he noted.
Deputy Deasy has called on his party to live up to the pledge in its 2011 pre-election small business policy document to ‘continue to freeze local authority business rates and reduce them where possible.’ Furthermore, Fine Gael members on councils controlled by the party were instructed by headquarters to keep rates at existing levels for three years after the last local elections (2009).
At that time, Fine Gael said “to restore competitiveness we need to lower business costs to help them through the recession.” The party coupled a “commitment to freezing local business rates” with radical local government reform, and a “wish to see savings and efficiencies rather than new taxes and charges.”
“If shops in towns like Dungarvan can’t afford to keep going, the cumulative effect on the wider community is huge. It means more people on social welfare, less money in circulation, a smaller local rate base to support council services, and a lower tax take for the Exchequer."
He says a significant number of business people – barely surviving as it is due to collapsed footfall and high overheads – are “facing a double whammy in that the Valuation Office is currently revised the rates liability attached to their properties, in some cases upwards; now they could now be hit with a general rates hike as well.”
Deputy Deasy added: “If shops in towns like Dungarvan can’t afford to keep going, the cumulative effect on the wider community is huge. It means more people on social welfare, less money in circulation, a smaller local rate base to support council services, and a lower tax take for the Exchequer.
“Striking a fair balance in setting commercial rates will be a major test of whether this government’s reform agenda can be both pro-business and cost-effective,” he concluded.