Many businesses ‘are just hanging in there’

Mallow has the cheapest rates.

With a rate of €55.88 Mallow Town Council put out its stall as the cheapest place to set up business in Co Cork — and it has paid dividends even during the recession.

Mary Kelly knows a good bet when she sees one and the low rates attract the business punters.

Apart from being in charge of Cork Racecourse, she is also president of the town’s chamber of commerce, and attributes the low rates as “a contributory factor” in household names like Boots and Easons locating in Mallow in the past two years.

They are now part of the vibrant chamber’s 269 members.

But she’s concerned the numbers could fall if the county council hikes rates on Dec 13 and Mallow has to play catch up — which could be very costly — especially as the local authority wants to equalise rates across its domain when town councils are abolished next summer.

The chamber recently met with county manager Martin Riordan and Moira Murrell (assistant manager for North Cork) to discuss pending rate changes.

If, in the meantime, the county council rates were hiked on Dec 13, that would mean the gap Mallow businesses would have to bridge would be even larger.

“This is of huge concern. We don’t want an even wider gap,” said Ms Kelly.

“We would be very worried about this. Anybody who has survived in the past few years has done well. Many don’t have profit margins and are just hanging in there.”

Ian Lucey, the fifth generation from 1880 to run a butchers in the town, took over the business from his father 10 years ago.

“We got a couple of years in the boom and the rest in the bust. An increase in rates is an added expense. It will inhibit us developing the business,” said Mr Lucey, who employs 14 staff.

He wants to retain his workers as they have been loyal to him and it’s payback to return that loyalty.

“We can only ever charge so much for our products as customers have a limited budget and there is competition. My survival margins are decreasing.”

He said if rates increase that means something will have to give, such as spending money on better packaging, advertising, and, especially at this time of the year, on charitable donations.

Rosarie Bolster, who has run a hairdressers on Bridge St for the past 40 years, said she’d rather close her doors than pay more.

“We’ve been flooded numerous times over the years and never got a [rates] rebate when we asked for one. I’m paying €900 a year, yet somebody with 600 acres pays nothing. Anyway, if they abolish the town council it will save the State money, so why should be paying more?

“I’m very sore about this and I know a lot of other business people are as well.”

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