County welcomes positive budget
Business rates are set to increase for the first time since 2008 in Cork county as a budget of €372 million for 2022 was agreed by Cork County Council.
Speaking at a special meeting of the council on Monday, Chief Executive Tim Lucey said an increase of three per cent on business rates is necessary to fund ongoing service levels across the county.
A profile of Cork County Council’s rate base as of September 2021 shows that 30 per cent have rate bills of less than €1,000 per year, 55 per cent have bills lower than €2,000, 70 per cent are under €3,000, and 81 per cent are under €5,000.
Mr Lucey said the increase to business rates will raise €2.7 million for the county, with approximately 80 per cent of businesses raising just €560,000 of that sum, meaning the rest will be raised by the remaining 20 per cent.
He said that equates to an average of €56 extra per year for businesses within that 80 per cent bracket. That works out as 60c per week in some cases, and a maximum of €3 per week in others.
However, a number of councillors felt the decision to increase business rates next year is poorly timed and could reflect badly on the council.
East Cork Cllr Susan McCarthy (Fine Gael) described the increase as “terribly unfortunate” and said it could very well be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for many struggling businesses.
She also pointed out that a large number of businesses actually have experienced increases in rates since the abolishment of town councils in 2014.
“Back in 2014 when we had the changes in local government, all the town councils had to go into a kind of rates equalisation programme and that means that the likes of Midleton, Cobh and Youghal have all had to sustain increases in rates year on year over the last seven or eight years to get them up to the county level. So, it’s a bit of a misnomer to say that they weren’t paying increases over the last number of years because they have been,” said Cllr McCarthy.
Also unhappy with the rates increase was Mallow-Kanturk Cllr Ian Doyle (Fianna Fáil) who questioned the current system under which rates are determined based on property size rather than value or profitability.
He said: “I feel like that rate increase is going to give a negative image from our point of view. There are a lot of the smaller type businesses that are probably more profitable but are operating out of a smaller square footage than these premises that I’m trying to keep open.”
Responding to the councillors’ concerns, Chief Executive Tim Lucey said it is important to put things into perspective and said the three per cent increase doesn’t reflect in any way the massive commitment made to town centres and businesses by the council.
“Cork County Council will never be the cause of a business closing over non-payment of rates. That’s a fact. We won’t be at the doorstep of any business closing its doors because it can’t pay,” said Mr Lucey.
Outside of the rates increase, the budget, which brings an increase of €24 million on 2021, was well received by councillors who praised its emphasis on economic development and support for business communities.
There is also a renewed focus on climate adaptation across all operations, as Ireland transitions to becoming a carbon neutral society.
Some of the initiatives in Cork County Council’s Budget for 2022 include:
- Additional funding for the maintenance and improvement of local authority housing with provisions to refurbish in excess of 150 vacant properties during 2022.
- €1.2m for Economic Development Fund and to address town regeneration issues.
- €8.2m for libraries, and a fund of €150,000 for the Arts Programme for Creative Towns and Spaces.
- The Public Lighting Efficiency Project to retrofit upwards of 31,000 lights to LED by 2024 achieving at least 38 per cent energy reduction and significant cost savings.
- A ring-fenced fund for climate action and biodiversity with €400,000 being provided for 2022.
• A Fleet Replacement Programme to upgrade to newer more fuel-efficient vehicles to meet the 2030 climate change targets.