Fourteen new Primary Care Centres are to be built across Ireland, including ones in Dungarvan (left), Waterford City and Carrick-on-Suir, following agreement of a new €70 million 25-year loan from the European Investment Bank.
Backing for the care centres comes from the new European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the heart of the Juncker Investment Plan.
EFSI supports lending to crucial infrastructure projects by the European Investment Bank in strategic sectors (such as renewable energy, digital infrastructure, social infrastructure, transport and R&D) as well as financing for SMEs by giving a Commission-backed guarantee on the loans to investors, which increases the amount they are willing to lend.
Financing from the European Investment Bank represents 49.5% of the total investment cost of the new care centres. The project will be co-funded by commercial lenders Talanx Asset Management and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi.
The new PPP-based scheme will support the shift from hospital based healthcare to community-based care closer to patients.
They will provide basic health services including GP surgeries, occupational therapy, social work and dietary advice. In some locations additional services will also be provided, including mental health, dentistry and addiction services and a local ambulance base. A total of 150 primary care centres are already operational, underway or in varying stages of development across the country.
The EIB loan to build 14 new primary care centres across Ireland was made possible by support from the Investment Plan for Europe. This new, large-scale investment project will improve patient care and create jobs across the country.
This is the second healthcare project to be backed by the new European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the heart of the Investment Plan. EFSI was established a year ago by the European Investment Bank and the European Commission to enable increased lending crucial projects by the EIB in strategic sectors such as renewable energy, digital infrastructure, social infrastructure, transport and R&D; as well as financing for SMEs.
Over the last 5 years the European Investment Bank has provided more than €3.3 billion for investment in schools, university campuses, upgraded energy links, renewable energy projects and transport infrastructure across Ireland.
John Deasy says the Receiver tasked with selling the former glass factory properties needs to know that any proposal to change the purpose of a pitch currently used by Dungarvan United AFC will not be entertained by Waterford City and County Council.
For the past 25 years United have availed of a playing field owned by Waterford Crystal in Receivership. It backs directly onto Kilrush Park — the soccer club’s home ground since 1980.
Commonly known as “The Crystal Pitch”, it is zoned for ‘Open Space’ under the Dungarvan Town Development Plan, 2012-2018. This zoning is designed “to preserve and enhance Open Space areas and Amenity Areas for passive and active recreational uses”.
John Deasy says: “I’ve been in contact with the Council and it’s time they made it clear to the Receiver that this pitch will not be used for anything other than soccer club purposes.”
Acting for Waterford Crystal Ltd in Receivership, Deloitte have been in discussions on the sale of both the former Waterford Crystal factory in Dungarvan and the separate Sports and Leisure Club site roughly a kilometre away.
Late last year the Receiver’s solicitors served notice on United to stop using the Crystal Pitch with immediate effect.
Doing so would mean getting rid of 14 teams and “decimate the club,” says Dungarvan chairman David Walsh. The use of their main playing field and the Crystal Pitch is split evenly among all teams, whilst the latter is also used predominantly for training. With 27 teams (male and female) from under-6s up, having a second field is essential.
John Deasy has been in regular contact with both club and senior local authority officials over the past year. “At this stage the Council needs to make it abundantly clear to the Receiver that this pitch, if sold to a third party, is not going to be permitted for any other use, and it will be making no change to the zoning of this particular site,” he says.
After being instructed to desist from using the pitch, Dungarvan United were subsequently invited through law firm A&L Goodbody, representing the Receiver, to make an offer for the land and buildings before the site went on general sale.
However, the club is heavily in debt due to ongoing investment in its facilities (including pitch drainage works, astroturf, a new covered stand and floodlights) and “borrowing more funds is not realistic,” David Walsh says.
Despite this fact, the club made two offers to the Receiver last February — one for the playing pitch, another for the entire lot, including the disused Crystal clubhouse. If accepted, either bid would have to be met through further local fundraising.
“This potential securing of these lands would be a fantastic outcome as the club prepares to mark its 50th anniversary in 2016,” says the chairman, who believes the current zoning of the lands should “reduce the value of the site considerably.”
In recent weeks United have been informed that the Receiver is now dealing with another interested party in connection with the property, and would only “consider” engaging with United should those negotiations prove unsuccessful.
This has left the club’s committee in limbo, after years of modernising and forward planning. Many of its hundreds of members would have connections to the old Dungarvan Crystal team and the factory workers.
With the permission of the Crystal Centre Committee, the club effected a clean-up of the centre’s old vandalised tennis courts and laid out a grassed training area for schoolboy teams. This land was previously a magnet for vandalism and anti-social behavior, which has reduced dramatically as a result, much to the relief of residents of the area.
John Deasy says: “The club needs to be dealt with on a fair basis given their contribution to the wider community and the Council should now intervene to ensure that the Receiver is under no illusions as to what will be allowed.
“If this is a tactic to engineer arbitration for the pitch it is ill-advised. The people selling this land need to engage constructively with the soccer club for the first time since this process started,” the local TD added.
Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan, recent White House official for cyber security Howard Schmidt, and former director of the US Secret Service Lewis Merletti, will be among those addressing the Global Intelligence Forum taking place in Dungarvan, Co Waterford from July 13-15.
The 300 or so attendees expected will also hear from Europol’s strategic analyst for the European Cybercrime Centre Jaroslav Jakubcek, Nama chairman Frank Daly and a number of academics including Liam Fahey of Babson College, Andrew Roth, president-emeritus of Notre Dame College, Matt Whelan and Stefan Hyman of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and Patrick Gibbons of UCD.
Hosted by the Ridge School of Intelligence Studies and Information Science at Mercyhurst University, the conference will include leadership panels and discussion on the most recent innovations in business intelligence, best practices for security analysis; global cyber security threats, the impact of social media in security and intelligence management and the application of intelligence principles to higher education challenges.
John Deasy has been instrumental in developing the relationship with Mercyhurst College Ireland to bring the Global Intelligence Forum to Dungarvan, as have members of the Waterford City and County Council.
The three-day event is expected to attract attendees from the business community, academia, security specialists, technology companies and global corporations, as well as government representatives and those involved in the area of business intelligence.
“The Global Intelligence Forum 2015 has an incredible line-up of expert speakers,” said Kevin Giblin, executive manager, Mercyhurst College Ireland, “that will provide the latest insights and innovations in security, business intelligence, data management and the use of technology to counter criminal and intelligence threats.
This is a unique opportunity to engage with leaders on diverse topics such as corporate risk management, advanced data analysis, anticipatory intelligence, cybercrime and real-time forensic analysis, among others.”
John Deasy: strong perception locally that he was poorly treated by Department
The Department of Agriculture has told Waterford TD John Deasy that it will direct a special steering committee to review the circumstances in which a Dungarvan farmer was compelled to slaughter 4,000 pigs at a loss of almost €750,000.
Speaking at last Thursday’s meeting of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee, which discussed the Department’s handling of the 2002 mass destruction of pigs at the Ballinamuck farm of Tom Galvin, Secretary General Aidan O’Driscoll said they would not allow a similar situation to unfold again.
“There’s no doubt that that. There are many aspects of this that we wouldn’t handle the same way. If we did allow on-farm slaughter we would supervise the whole thing.”
Outlining the case history, he told how traces of Carbadox — banned in the EU in 1999 because of its carcinogenic properties but still legal in the United States — were found in a pig carcass traced to Mr Galvin’s farm, where officials later found several bags of the product.
Mr Galvin was convicted under animal remedy regulations but successfully appealed the verdict. The Department did not defend the appeal on the basis that the Supreme Court had decided that the Minister did not have the right to amend regulations.
Deputy Deasy, vice-chairman of the PAC, told the Secretary General: “When it comes to Tom Galvin, I have to say he’s someone who’s very well regarded and the feeling locally would be that the Department treated him poorly, and that’s my own subjective view having looked at the evidence.”
Deasy said he’d formed this opinion “regardless of the constraints Department officials might have been under when it comes to the rules and regulations in dealing with animals suspected of being diseased, or fed things allegedly that would affect the food chain adversely.”
Mr O’Driscoll, stressing “he’d no axe to grind” with Mr Galvin and “he could well be a fine person, as you’ve said”, explained why officials entered the farm and that the farmer admitted spreading the product on the floor of his pig pens.
“Once that admission was made, effectively the pigs had to be slaughtered,” he said. No further testing took place. Mr Deasy wondered why not, if only for clarity’s sake. Mr O’Driscoll acknowledged “there must have been a test we could have done, yes.”
The Fine Gael TD disagreed with his contention that “there would have been nothing served” by testing the pigs on the farm. If it had produced “incontrovertible evidence as to what might have gone into the food chain, I think it would have solved an awful lot of problems subsequently.”
Though accepting the Department has to act in cases involving threats to the food chain, “I think you made a mistake — and left a real grey area about the state of those pigs — by not going down that road [testing],” he said. Mr O’Driscoll agreed that this was a reasonable assessment.
The Department had told Mr Galvin to have the pigs destroyed in an approved plant as they must not enter the food chain. Instead, he asked to carrying out the slaughter on his property using a humane killer.
The Secretary General said the disposal of the carcasses was supervised by a Department official at all times. Around 25 percent of the slaughter was overseen by a veterinary official and it was done “meticulously”.
Mr O’Driscoll — who refuted an allegation that a Department official overseeing the slaughter had handed Mr Galvin a lump hammer and told him to finish the job — said he understood that about 10 animals were killed in this way before the vet intervened and took away the hammer.
Mr Deasy said that for the Department to admit it wouldn’t allow such a scenario to unfold again “is significant”. The fact that the Veterinary Council had exonerated the vets involved was “fair enough” but “that doesn’t mean that things that happened were done properly” or that this “should have occurred the way that it did.”
Mr O’Driscoll said: “You’re quite right — if we did this again I’m quite sure we wouldn’t do it in the same way and in the same circumstances. In particular, if we did allow on-farm slaughter by the farmer I think we would supervise the entire thing. Would we allow [it] at all? I don’t know, I’d be unwilling to say definitely not.”
Deputy Deasy said, “It amazes me that when it comes to the obvious, potentially devastating financial result that did occur that only 25% of the slaughter was actually supervised” — compounded by the fact that procedures didn’t change even after the alleged use of a lump hammer; which Mr O’Driscoll regarded as “a fair point”.
Having been “constructively made [to] slaughter those pigs himself,” he deemed it “understandable” why Mr Galvin asked permission to do so on his own farm, given that he’s gone to a couple of abattoirs who refused, presumably because they didn’t want any potentially contaminated pigs going into the foods chain. Plus, “it was probably the cheaper option at the time.”
Mr O’Driscoll had “no problem with that interpretation”. The only other option would have been to bring a professional slaughterman onto the farm, “and I think if we were doing it again that option would be quite a prominent one.”
In his opinion, “The key error we made was not having 100% supervision.” However, Mr Deasy maintained this was “not the only mistake really”. First off, when that singular pig was believed to have tested positive, the Department left Mr Galvin “remain in a state of limbo for three months.”
He couldn’t understand how, “if it was so crucial that those pigs were slaughtered, why did you wait three months? It seems to me it really was a haphazard approach by the Department.”
During that time, the pigs got sick, disease spread, medicines were taken away from the farmer, and he moved animals in that interim period; “probably because he needed cash to keep going.”
The Secretary General said because Mr Galvin contested the slaughter order in the High Court, which found against him, a lot of delay before the slaughter took place “related to those legal issues.”
Deputy Deasy also said Mr Galvin “would contend that the manner in which those pigs were slaughtered was not correct”. Mr O’Driscoll said the method the farmer had used was very widely applied in the UK during the swine fever outbreak two years previously.
Another option was the Department could have taken over the pigs and got them slaughtered — but the legal advice was that it would have ended up having to pay significant compensation. “Would that have been a better outcome?” the Secretary General asked. “Not for the taxpayer.”
But, Mr Deasy said, “You could certainly make the argument, for fairness sake, it might have been the best option.” He added that, notwithstanding the disease risks associated with the movement of animals and so on, “there’s also the question of treating somebody fairly, and when I look at this I think, actually, he was treated poorly”.
On account of a product that’s still not banned in the U.S. to this day, he’d been left out of pocket to the amount of €0.75m.
With a 2005 review of the case conducted without Mr Galvin’s input, and its findings still unpublished, Mr Deasy said: “I think your new steering group within the Department should take another look at this, for the sake of fairness to the individual in question who was put out of business... and at least offer him the opportunity, outside of an adversarial setting, to make his case.”
The Secretary General had “no difficulty with that” and said the best thing he could do was to refer the 2005 internal report to the steering group for its consideration, and also hand it over to the PAC. Mr Galvin could make a submission to the steering group, “if he wants to contest anything that’s in the report, or just present his own narrative.”
::: Group of Dungarvan Gymnastics Club members pictured with Minister for Sport Michael Ring during his recent visit. Included are coaches Lindsey Sheehan, Lyndsay O'Shea Flynn & Denika O'Shea; Deputy John Deasy; Cllr Damien Geoghegan, Mayor of Dungarvan and Lismore, and Rosarie Kealy , Sports Coordinator with Waterford Sports Partnership.
Dungarvan Gymnastic Club’s new premises at Westgate Business Park were formally opened recently by Minister for Sport, Michael Ring TD, on February 19, 2015.
After seeing a dynamic display of gymnastics, the Minister praised the great work being done by the club to improve the health and well-being of its members in a fun and fitness-orientated environment.
The club was established eight years ago and is affiliated with Gymnastics Ireland. It currently caters for 149 recreational gymnasts and 49 competition gymnasts, ranging in age from four years upwards.
The club has competed at Women’s Artistic Gymnastics since 2008 with considerable success, winning 18 regional team medals (13 gold) and 8 team medals at national level.
Members have also collected 78 individual regional medals and 4 national titles to date.
With the aid of a grant application by Waterford Sports Partnership to the Irish Sports Council, basic equipment was purchased such as floor and safety mats, a vault, springboard, and beam.
Over the past five years the club’s fundraising has enabled it to purchase additional equipment, including 2 asymmetric bars — all now housed in the club’s spacious new unit at 2-3 Westgate, having recently relocated from Dungarvan Sports Centre.
Having allocated the club a grant of €18,000 under the 2014 Sports Capital Programme, Minister Ring’s visit was arranged by Deputy John Deasy, who supported the club’s funding application.
Lindsey Sheehan, club coach, says the sport’s popularity is really on the increase locally. “The club are currently receiving approximately 10-15 membership enquiries a week and have 30 applications on their wait list, with an additional 36 members wait-listed for the competition classes.”
To cater for this demand, the club is planning to further improve its facilities and equipment. For more information see www.dungarvangymnastics.com
Detailed proposal submitted by council; John puts it to CEO
The chief executive of the IDA has told Waterford TD John Deasy that the agency will consider a major re-fit of the former recycling plant in Dungarvan as a base for new industry.
A comprehensive proposal to renovate the vacant Shandon facility was submitted to the agency by senior Waterford and City Council officials last week following contacts between Mr Deasy and the IDA.
He then raised the proposal with IDA chief executive Martin Shanahan when he appeared before the Dáil Public Accounts Committee on Thursday.
The local Fine Gael deputy has held a series of meetings with senior IDA executives over the past number of weeks: namely, chairman Frank Ryan, new South East Regional Manager Anne-Marie Tierney-Le Roux, and the CEO. He also spoke with Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton last week about the proposal.
These discussions included the possibility of an advance factory for Dungarvan. “While there are other factors involved, the availability of suitable buildings, both office and manufacturing units, is critical to try and draw investors away from the likes of Dublin and Cork,” Mr Deasy said.
"Council officials believe that, properly refitted, it would compare favourably with the new building at the IDA Technology Park in Waterford."
Martin Shanahan told him the IDA is “happy to engage” with the local authority. “We will examine that and come back to the council’s chief executive in relation to the proposal he has put forward to see what can be done... and within what timeframe.”
It was announced last week that a five-year, €150 million property investment programme is to be rolled out by the IDA to attract foreign direct investment into the regions — including another new advance technology building for Waterford in 2017.
While positive, “it’s too far away,” Mr Deasy said. And though hopeful that a client company will be secured soon for the just-completed 25,274sq-ft advance technology building in Butlerstown, the Dungarvan TD said a similar ‘turn-key solution’ is needed in the west of the county.
Martin Shanahan said advance facilities are “hugely important for us”, and agreed that the funding made available to the IDA for property investment could “potentially” be used to upgrade suitable facilities such as the one in Dungarvan.
Deputy Deasy believes revamping the 27,000sq-ft plant, “which started life as an advance factory before being adapted to accommodate the Materials Recovery Facility, would make sense. Returning it to its original purpose does seem a logical move at this stage. It needs an internal overhaul and an external upgrade, and the detail of that has been outlined to the IDA.”
He added: “Council officials believe that, properly refitted, it would compare favourably with the new building at the IDA Technology Park in Waterford. Another plus is that it wouldn’t require planning and could become a ready-made facility very quickly. Also, the unit sits on a fully-serviced site of almost 4 acres, with plenty of scope for expansion.”
Cllr Damien Geoghegan, Mayor of the Dungarvan-Lismore District, says “retrofitting the plant for a new industry would make it a very marketable proposition, and hopefully accelerate the delivery of additional employment to the town and the wider west Waterford area. The proposal that’s being looked at would be an ideal fit with the enterprise agencies’ new regional strategy.”
John persuades Failte Ireland to allow council pitch
Deputy John Deasy has reached agreement with Failte Ireland to allow Waterford City and County Council to make a formal presentation — including a full business case — as to why Waterford’s coastline should be included in the Wild Atlantic Way.
The Fine Gael TD held separate meetings in Dublin last week with Failte Ireland chief executive, Shaun Quinn, and CEO of the combined Waterford council, Michael Walsh.
“I’ve been dealing with this for a couple of months now,” Mr Deasy said. “I proposed to Mr Quinn that the local authority be given an opportunity to make a proper pitch as to why Waterford, being on the Atlantic seaboard, should be included in this multi-million euro tourism promotion.
“Michael Walsh has agreed to put the necessary process in train and the next step is to formulate a comprehensive presentation. It will take a few weeks to put together the business plan, which is a critical component of this.
“While there’s no guarantee Waterford’s submission will be successful, at the very least the council will have the chance to make a detailed case for inclusion. It’s up to the officials now to make the best case possible.”
Deputy Deasy stressed that “the inclusion of Waterford will have to make sense in terms of the considerable marketing plan that’s already underway. The concern already raised is that it might dilute the overall concept.”
“We have to be realistic. There are major issues to be overcome if Waterford is to be included. The most obvious problem is that it would have to comprise East Cork’s coastline as well.”
He believes one big advantage Waterford has is the location of the regional airport, which would be an ideal starting point to the tourist route for visitors from the UK and Europe.
“Having this county’s spectacular 147km of coastline as part of the Wild Atlantic Way would also help the marketing of the airport a great deal. It’s very well located and I presume the airport’s access potential will be a key selling point in the presentation the Waterford council makes to Bord Failte.”
“You consistently gave assurances that you would try to bring the ARV to the lowest level in Waterford – the Dungarvan level – and you did that."
Additional rates reliefs have been included in the new Local Government Bill after Minister Phil Hogan accepted proposals by Waterford Fine Gael TD John Deasy and Labour Deputy for Dublin Mid West, Robert Dowds.
The Minister was thanked for taking the thrust of two joint-amendments they put forward and incorporating them into the new legislation as it passed through the Dáil on Wednesday. Deputy Deasy said Mr Hogan had been ‘as good as his word’ when it came to reducing commercial rate levels in Waterford.
The first change the TDs sought and secured was in respect of a planned rates refund mechanism for vacant premises. In taking their arguments on board, the Minister is to give discretion to elected councillors right across the country to allow owner/occupiers who can’t secure tenants a full rates rebate – not a maximum of 50% as the Bill originally proposed (and which is currently applied in Dublin, Cork and Limerick).
Deputy Deasy said: “The Minister accepted there are areas where there is little or no demand for commercial premises. Councillors will now have the authority to tailor vacancy refunds – from 100% down to zero – to best suit the economic circumstances in particular counties or specific municipal districts.
“While I understand how some local authority officials would have seen a need to have a deterrent to people holding onto sites, to have a blanket 50% rebate would have been madness in this economic climate.
“There is a two-tier economy in this country. In some areas, like my own homeplace of Dungarvan, it’s not a matter of choice. In many parts of Ireland owners simply can’t get tenants for commercial premises. And enabling this to be implemented on a district level will allow for the differences between rural and urban areas.”
Work of Waterford Chambers acknowledged in Dáil
The Deputies – who are colleagues on the Dáil Public Accounts Committee – also proposed an amendment dealing with the issue of outstanding rates charges being passed on to new occupiers; something the Minister was anxious about as well.
“He accepted that maintaining the status quo could give rise to an unfair burden on businesses seeking to expand, relocate or start up. In some cases the arrears on a particular premises were holding up the sale,” Mr Deasy said.
“In dealing with and introducing a reasonable variation of our amendment, he is giving city and county managers the authority to write off arrears owed by previous occupiers – meaning property that may otherwise have remained vacant can now be re-let.”
Deputy Deasy said the Minister had lived up to his word in their interactions on commercial rates over the past year. “You consistently gave assurances that you would try to bring the ARV to the lowest level in Waterford – the Dungarvan level – and you did that.
“I’d like to thank you for following through on what you said you would do... I was keeping a close eye on this situation for the past year. But you were consistent with regard to the issue, and it’s turned out to be, in the case of the city, a really excellent result when you consider ratepayers there received a reduction of 20%.”
While county rates were reduced by 5%, some people felt it unfair that the Dungarvan ARV level should remain as is. But “for the most part the feedback I’ve been getting is that they expected it to go up,” Mr Deasy said.
He told Minister Hogan: “I think it’s worth acknowledging the direction that you gave. And everyone’s taking credit for it in Waterford – councillors, officials – but you were consistent”.
This included putting more money into Waterford’s Local Government Fund allocation with a direction that it be used to reduce the rates level locally.
From the floor, Deputy Deasy also said he wanted to acknowledge “the work of Waterford City Chamber of Commerce – Nora Widger and Nick Donnelly – and Dungarvan & West Waterford Chamber of Commerce – Jenny Beresford and Collette Bannon – on this issue.”
Environment Minister Phil Hogan has intimated to John Deasy in the Dáil that business rates could be harmonised “downwards” after Waterford’s local authorities amalgamate next year.
As the new Local Government Bill passed report stage, Deputy Deasy has again argued for changes to be incorporated into the new legislation.
Referring to the harmonisation of rates across councils set to merge in 2014, the Minister suggested to Deputy Deasy that a lowering of rates in Waterford and elsewhere could occur.
“If local authorities are in a position financially to harmonise their rates in one go… we will do so,” the Minister said. “This is about harmonisation of the systems in place downwards, not upwards.
“At the end of the day, it is a matter for the elected members, who have a reserved function on this matter at budget time, to ensure that is the case,” Mr Hogan added.“Any savings that will accrue from the reforms we are undertaking should not impose any additional cost on business.”
Deputy Deasy directly raised the harmonisation issue with Mr Hogan in the Dáil last May, having first addressed it at the Public Accounts Committee a year ago when he pointed to the large variances in annual rateable valuations between the merging councils in Waterford City (€66.22) and County (€69.92), and Dungarvan Town Council (€60.37).
Minister Hogan also indicated he is willing to accept an amendment tabled by the Waterford Fine Gael TD and Dublin Labour deputy Robert Dowds to give discretion to councillors to grant either a full or 50% rebate on rates to owners of vacant business premises. The Bill originally proposed a 50% concession across councils countrywide, “which would be a mistake,” Mr Deasy said.
Another proposal that the Minister is considering is to allow city and county managers waive historical arrears tacked onto a new sale or leasehold.
Mr Hogan agreed with Deputy Dowds at committee stage that incoming businesses shouldn’t be burdened with a legacy debt not of their making, and “I’ve asked the legal people to draft up an appropriate amendment that hits the spirit of what you want.”
A third Deasy/Dowds proposal, namely, a transitional relief scheme that would spread out revaluation increases by rating authorities over three years, is being “constructively” considered by Government officials.
Fine Gael TD John Deasy and Labour Deputy Robert Dowds – both members of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee – are working on proposed changes to new legislation which would allow commercial rates increases to be spread out over a number of years, and alter the planned rates refund mechanism for vacant premises.
The Local Government Bill 2013 was published by Environment Minister Phil Hogan last week, setting down a legislative framework for the new local authority structures being introduced next summer.
One aspect of the Bill relates to how councils deal with commercial rates. However, Deputies Deasy and Dowds – a TD for Dublin Mid-West – are concerned that it doesn‟t take the current Valuation Office review of rental values, nor local economic circumstances, into account.
Consequently, they are planning to submit joint amendments to the Bill when it goes to report stage in the Dáil in the coming weeks.
Mr Deasy said: “For the past number of months I've been highlighting the potentially crippling impact the current revaluation process underway in Waterford – and parts of Dublin – would have. It particularly affects the retail sector, where most businesses locally are facing a significant upward adjustment of their rates bill; a hike of up to 300% in some cases.”
While the Bill provides for phasing in the effects of rates “harmonisation” – i.e. where different local authority areas with different Annual Rateable Valuations will be merged – the proposed legislation doesn't factor in the damaging impact a sudden revaluation hike would have.
Deputy Dowds said: “Even though the Valuation Amendment Bill has been introduced in the Oireachtas and provides for a new system of self-assessment of commercial rates, there needs to be a provision which allows for regular reviews on a statutory basis so that businesses can budget accordingly.”
Mr Deasy added: “What we are looking at is a way of giving councils powers whereby the elected members can decide to allow businesses whose rates bill is being increased as a result of revaluation to spread the 'hit' over a number of years.
“The Bill as published would abolish the refund regime entitling owners of vacant commercial properties to a 100% refund of their commercial rates liability in certain parts of the country. In many cases businesses would not be able to afford that refund regime changing in any respect.
“Once the Minister has given his response in this week‟s second stage debate, we will consider how best amendments might be framed to ease the burden on businesses as much as possible.”