Galway Chamber calls for abolition of commercial rates for pandemic hit businesses

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Galway Chamber has called for commercial rates to be abolished for businesses closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The City and County Councils announced at the start of April that it was deferring commercial rates payments from businesses badly hit by the current crisis until the end of June.

This came after the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government issued a direction on March 24 advising local authorities to give at least three months relief from rates.

In a statement released this week Galway Chamber acknowledged the councils’ move as welcome step to alleviate pressure in the short term, but said that it does not go far enough.

It said that after the current crisis, which has closed vast swathes of businesses not deemed essential, many retail and tourism businesses will have to undergo a slow and arduous rebuilding process, and they will need every help they can get.

A deferred rates bill will not be helpful while they’re going through that process the Chamber said, as it will still be due in the end.

President of Galway Chamber Dave Hickey said “Businesses which have been forced to close because of Covid-19 should be granted full relief from commercial rates for the duration of their closure”.

On top of that he said these businesses should be granted “partial relief” from rates for a period after the crisis while they rebuild.

“Other businesses which remain open but with reduced turnover should also get partial rates relief,” he added.

Acknowledging the importance of commercial rates to councils’ budgets, Galway Chamber is calling on the government to provide local authorities with ring fenced funding to allow them to support local businesses.

This will enable the continuation of council provided services, while also giving businesses a reprieve while they get back on their feet.

Dave Hickey said that the city and county councils would require a total of €68m million to make up their budget shortfall, representing 38% of city spending, and 23% of the county’s.

Neither the city nor county council has the ability to fill the anticipated shortfall in rates collected on their own Hickey stated.

But he added that “neither should they be expected to cut back on services which would penalise the people of Galway unfairly at a time when we are more in need of the council’s support than ever.”