Small businesses in Co Cork, especially those paying less than €3,000 annually in rates, are set get a reduction in the charge and also to benefit from a new fund set up encourage regeneration of some economically-decimated town centres.
The Irish Examiner understands these are some of the proposals which will be included in the Cork County Council budget for 2015, which will be debated in County Hall on Monday, November 24.
While the fine-tuning of the local authority’s annual €300m-plus budget is still in its final stages, it’s expected to be “business-orientated” to aid retail outlets which have struggled to keep their heads above water during the recession and “kick-start” added employment in that sector as the economy gains ground.
Cllr Alan Coleman, the Mayor of County Cork, remained tight-lipped about the exact nature of plans being drawn up by management and local public representatives, but admitted the proposed rates reductions could be given to around two-thirds of businesses.
Cllr Coleman said he was sticking to a policy promised by his party last summer to push through reliefs for hard-pressed rate-payers.
“It was always going to be one of our core ideas to regenerate employment,” said Cllr Coleman of Fianna Fáil, which, with 17 seats, is the largest party on the local authority. He admitted that the council was also looking at developing a specific fund for regenerating some town centres which have suffered shop closures in recent years due to the economic climate.
“Yes, we are looking at a specific regeneration fund and we will be seeking applications for grant-aid from chambers, retail groups or community groups. It will be similar, I hope, to the EDF (Economic Development Fund) which we have developed to aid start-up businesses,” Cllr Coleman said.
The council takes 1%, approximately €1m, from its rates every year to fund start-up enterprises, and was the first local authority in the country to do so.
It’s believed around €1m will be set aside by the council for a town centre regeneration fund.
Cllr Coleman said he believed the extra financial input could be achieved while maintaining services to the same level in 2015 that have been achieved this year.
“We are also confident that we can reduce borrowing levels and even eliminate them in the next five years,” he said.
The council has had to dip into its ever-dwindling reserves during the recessionary years to balance its books.
“The Department of Environment has received extra funding from the Government for 2015 and we hope this will filter down to local authorities through grant aid. This should allow us to inject extra money into our towns,” Cllr Coleman said.
It’s expected that Fianna Fáil, which for years played second fiddle in the council to Fine Gael will get the support it needs from other parties to push through its own ‘signature budget’.
Following last summer’s local elections, it became the biggest party in the 55-seater council with 17 representatives.
Fine Gael is the next largest party with 16 seats and is unlikely to object to a business-orientated budget.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved