With the economic recession, compounded by greed and avarice on the part of some landlords, and the annual rates, many commercial concerns have closed while others struggle for financial survival. Rates are governed by legislation from 1838, 1852, and the act of 2001. Rateable valuation of each property is a major issue and not necessarily the rates in the euro.
It is vital, therefore, to listen to businesses — and to be active with the Valuation Office in getting properties revalued. For example, under the present system whereby a business closes and re-opens under new ownership, the new owner is liable for up to three years arrears. This is in no way a fair system.
There is much concern about commercial leases and the rigid adherence and severe tactics adopted by some landlords in raising rents. This has resulted in the closure of many commercial outlets. Flexibility must be applied to existing lease arrangements.
The more some landlords have, the more they want. Greed is an evil that is fast eating away the heart of the commercial sector in this country. Some years ago, it was the absentee landlords, until we took to the streets and platforms, myself included, in protest against the unjust demands of these vultures.
Jackboot tactics were employed by the absentee landlords, and by the look of things, some Irish landlords, right across the country, are adopting similar draconian measures. Much covets more. In the report of the Local Government Efficiency Review Group (July 2010) many changes have been recommended in local government administration and services.
On commercial rates, the group considers — that the user pays principle, as well as basic issues of fairness and equity, also repairs — that a series of exemptions and anomalies in commercial rates must be addressed.
To help the commercial sector, the Commission on Taxation has argued that State properties — which are currently exempted from commercial rates — such as government offices, Defence Forces properties, prisons and HSE administration offices should be brought into the rates system. The effect of these proposals to broaden commercial rates base was estimated, by the Commission of Taxation, to be worth €77m to €87m in income to local authorities per year. It is estimated that €50m of those figures relates to State properties, that would be liable for commercial rates.
In the current economic climate, compromises and change must be considered. In my 53 years in public life, I have never witnessed — until now — the mental strain and anxiety amongst the business community, as they struggle financially to meet rents, rates, leases and income tax. The mental pressure has sent many of them to an early grave.
I appeal to the Government, Revenue Commissioners and government departments cited above to help the businesses meet financial obligations and to compare the contribution
to social justice, with that of Michael Davitt who fought to overturn that rapacious landlord system, of high taxes, rates, rents, land grabbers and insecurity of tenure. I would think the outcome would make them feel very, very uncomfortable.
I appeal to the Government to take note and legislate accordingly, as early as possible, thus helping the commercial sector to keep their doors open.
Cllr Noel Collins
This reader's opinion was originally published in the letters page of the Irish Examiner print edition on 3 July 2019.