Rates rise ‘will kill off flood-hit businesses’

Business-owners in Clonakilty are worried that no decrease in their rates would cripple them especially as they are unable to get their premises flood insurance.

Any rates increase on businesses which are still recovering from flooding in 2009 and 2012 will sound the death knell for several barely keeping their heads above water in the current economic climate.

That’s the stark warning from entrepreneurs in Clonakilty who believe the town should get a break because many can no longer get flood insurance and are put to the pin of their collar just to keep the doors open.

Phil O’Regan is a director of the successful Shannon Vale poultry plant, which happens to be in the county council-controlled area on the outskirts of the town. As such, her company pays far more in rates than if it was in the town council zone.

The Independent councillor, the mayor of the town, admitted it was costing her company “a high five-figure sum” more operating in the higher rated area and maintains the reason the town charges are less is two-fold.

“The town council has been massively prudent over the years. We also know what level of [rates] burden that local busin-esses can sustain.”

She said if rates were to rise it “would contribute to a significant number of further business closures”.

“Just go around and see the amount [of premises] closed. Some are then let out and last just a short time before closing again. That’s because, in addition, there are water and waste water charges on all businesses,” she said.

Cllr O’Regan said if an exception was made for Clonakilty it would have to be made for flood-hit towns like Bandon, Skibbereen, and Glanmire also.

Emma O’Brien, vice chair of the local chamber of commerce, which represents 160 businesses, said a rates increase would be “a catastrophe”: “An increase would be the straw which broke the camel’s back for some businesses.”

She said the chamber was doing everything in its power to encourage people to shop locally to keep premises open.

Ger Harte, who runs The Courtyard pub, and owns the nearby 11-unit Courtyard shopping centre, said the impact of increased rates would be huge. He said he paid €8,000-plus just for the pub and reckoned those occupying the centre were easily paying a combined €50,000-plus a year.

“In reality most businesses in the town have a stagnant or reducing turnover. Energy costs have gone through the roof and I most definitely think a rates increase will lead to certain businesses closing down,” he said.

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