‘I’VE NEVER SEEN AN AU­DI­ENCE SO QUIET... I AS­SUME THEY ARE, LIKE ME, SHOCKED’

New Ross Standard - - NEWS -

A NUM­BER OF New Ross busi­ness­peo­ple spoke up at the meet­ing, ex­press­ing grave con­cern about the ef­fects the rates hike will have on the town.

Owner of the Cracked Teapot cafe on Quay Street, Tina Sari­dakis said: ‘Ev­ery­thing that we heard tonight is re­ally en­cour­ag­ing, but for the mo­ment, with the long win­ter months ahead and the very short foot­fall on our streets, it will be very dif­fi­cult to pay ex­tra rates. Even to find (money for) rates at the mo­ment is very dif­fi­cult, not to men­tion find­ing money for all the other over­heads.’

Ms Saradakis said the town is very quiet from Oc­to­ber un­til March.

Head of Fi­nance with Wex­ford County Coun­cil An­nette O’Neill said the body’s credit con­trol team work closely with business own­ers who are find­ing it dif­fi­cult to pay their rates.

She said a pay­ment plan can be agreed where the ma­jor­ity of money owed for rates can be paid dur­ing the busier sum­mer sea­son.

‘We work with rate pay­ers who want to pay us and we go very hard af­ter those who de­fi­antly ig­nore us.’

Ms Saradakis said two busi­nesses have re­lo­cated from her street in re­cent weeks.

‘We will have two va­cant shops be­side us and an in­crease in rates will put peo­ple off open­ing up. Are there in­cen­tives for peo­ple us­ing prop­er­ties that are closed as a lot of busi­nesses have gone from the town?’

Di­rec­tor of Ser­vices for Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Tony Larkin said New Ross has suf­fered more than most ar­eas.

He said rates are an es­sen­tial part of the coun­cil’s in­come which is needed to drive an am­bi­tious pro­gramme for the town and area.

‘I am in the coun­cil 37 years and in all that time we have been wait­ing for some­one else to fix our prob­lems. Wait­ing for the IDA, for Fáilte Ire­land, for a min­is­ter. To some ex­tent Wex­ford has been lag­ging be­hind in terms of em­ploy­ment and wages, es­pe­cially. Re­al­is­ti­cally ev­ery business has been af­fected.’

He said the coun­cil has a spe­cific scheme de­signed to bring prop­er­ties which have been va­cant for more than one year back into use. Un­der the scheme 75 per cent of the fit out costs can be used as a re­bate in year one and 50 and 25 per cent can be de­ducted in year two and year three.

New Ross Dis­trict Di­rec­tor Ea­monn Hore said North Street and John Street are be­ing de­vel­oped and with work on­go­ing on de­vel­op­ing Goat Hill and the High Hill site, along with tourism trails, the Quay Street area will see a marked in­crease in foot­fall.

Ray Lawlor of Lawlor’s Menswear on North Street said: ‘I

have never seen an au­di­ence so quiet and timid. I am as­sum­ing they are like me, shocked. I as­sumed we were go­ing to get an in­for­ma­tion meet­ing and now it ap­pears we are hear to learn the coun­cil are go­ing to in­crease the har­mon­i­sa­tion process and the rates at the same time.’

He asked if coun­cil­lors will be vot­ing on the rates in­crease and on com­plet­ing the rates har­mon­i­sa­tion process in 2018 and how long the 15 per cent rates re­duc­tion scheme will be in place. He also asked what time of year the rates have to be paid.

Ms O’Neill said the 15 per cent will have to be phased back to the gen­eral Rates In­cen­tive Scheme over a num­ber of years.

‘It will be a de­ci­sion of the coun­cil­lors in ev­ery bud­get year.’

She said: ‘ The dead­line for the cur­rent Rates In­cen­tive scheme is April and Oc­to­ber, de­pend­ing on the pay­ment method, but we may consider a third date for ratepay­ers af­fected by har­mon­i­sa­tion. We will work with the rate pay­ers in New Ross to get this across the line.’

Cllr Michael Shee­han said the en­ter­prise cen­tre will cre­ate be­tween 50 and 70 jobs.

‘These peo­ple will have to go some­where to eat and to shop. I think it will be a fan­tas­tic fa­cil­ity to have on that side of the town. No other area can har­monise their rates un­less we all har­monise to­gether. The in­flow of rates com­ing in will be greater from other ar­eas than what is gen­er­ated here so rate pay­ers from Wex­ford, En­nis­cor­thy and Gorey will bring ben­e­fit to here.’

He said char­ity shops and other busi­nesses do not have to pay rates, adding that this is un­fair on rate pay­ing busi­nesses in the area.

‘You are pay­ing rates and they are not. If some­one has the courage to open a business we should do ev­ery­thing we can to en­sure that min­i­mum bar­ri­ers are there. We need to make that jump and look at all of the prop­erty put in front of us. The bulk of these projects will be com­pleted by 2019. Other lo­cal au­thor­i­ties are will­ing to put the money in, in Kilkenny, Wex­ford and Water­ford. We don’t have the lux­ury of sit­ting by and hop­ing that ev­ery­thing will go well.’

Cllr Oisin O’Connell sug­gested that the coun­cil bring the Rates In­cen­tive Scheme up to 18 per cent.

Ms O’Neill said: ‘15 per cent would be palat­able for the rate pay­ers and also benef­i­cal for the coun­cil.’

Cathaoir­leach of New Ross Mu­nic­i­pal Dis­trict Cllr Wil­lie Fitzhar­ris said: ‘No elected of­fi­cial wants to put rates on peo­ple but when we stud­ied it and as elected mem­bers we have a duty to progress in­dus­try and com­merce in the New Ross dis­trict and with­out money we can­not do that.’

Di­rec­tor of Ser­vices for Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Tony Larkin said the coun­cil CEO Tom En­right has com­mit­ted to not in­creas­ing rates in 2019.

Mr Larkin said the coun­cil is in the mid­dle of a hous­ing cri­sis so more money is be­ing de­voted to this area also.

Cllr Michael Whe­lan said the plans for the New Ross area look great. ‘It would be great to have the money to do this,’ he said.

Cllr John Flem­ing said the big prob­lem for lo­cal busi­nesses is that the eco­nomic re­cov­ery has not reached the area.

‘We have felt no bounce here. The whole area is in tran­si­tion. We’re get­ting roads and gas but it seems the shops are not get­ting the ben­e­fit.’

The fact that rates and prop­erty tax rates are ris­ing fur­ther ex­ac­er­bates mat­ters for business own­ers, he said.

‘We need to get your views. Is this the straw that breaks the camel’s back?’

Cham­ber of Com­merce Pres­i­dent John McSweeney said some busi­nesses will have to look at their own busines model.

‘Ask your­selves “What have we been do­ing” and if we have been do­ing the same thing year on year and we are get­ting the same re­sults - it’s time to look in­side and say maybe my business model isn’t cor­rect. Look at my pric­ing, my cus­tomer ser­vice etc.’

He said busi­nesses are open­ing in New Ross and ev­ery­one would love to see changes hap­pen at a faster pace, adding, ‘ but it’s im­prov­ing and there will be fur­ther im­prove­mem­nts in less than 18 months and that will ben­e­fit busi­nesses in New Ross. You may have to make these changes so you are best placed to ben­e­fit your business.’

Tony Larkin, di­rec­tor of ser­vices with Wex­ford County Coun­cil (far right), ad­dress­ing the at­ten­dance at the rates in­for­ma­tion evening at the Dun­brody Cen­tre, New Ross.

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