County Hall officials said yesterday that the council had collected more than €60 million in rates for 2003. However, they added that €3,636,725 was outstanding and of that they had written off €1.5m.
“There are a number of factors, properties have become vacant or premises have closed down. But they seem to be mainly small shops and pubs in rural areas, particularly in north-west Cork. It’s looking particularly lean up there,” a spokesman said.
He added that the Greater Cork area was producing the largest percentage of rates, particularly where business was doing well in the likes of Ringaskiddy, Carrigaline, Little Island, Douglas and Ballincollig. Small businesses in coastal rural areas are fairing better then their counterparts in north-west Cork, primarily because they can count on some tourist trade.
The rates amounted to 24% of the council’s revenue and it is expected that this year’s revenues will be up by 10%.
Cllr Pat Buckley, said he had asked the council’s finance department for a detailed breakdown on where exactly the businesses had folded.
“I know of a number of businesses which have shut down in the Kanturk and Millstreet areas. The rates went up 6.5% this year and increased insurance costs are crippling small and medium-sized businesses,” the Fine Gael councillor said.
Rates had to be increased in 2003 and this year to cover €25 million which the council was obliged to pay out of its own resources to fund benchmarking pay increases for its employees.
Cllr Buckley said that north-west Cork was slowly dying on its feet.
“In the last census the Kanturk and Millstreet districts both showed drops in population. I know of people who live in those areas but have to drive an hour, or an hour and a half, to work in Cork City or Limerick,” he said.
“I welcome the decentralisation of one of the Office of Public Works to Kanturk. It should bring 100 jobs. But the question I’d ask is will it actually happen or is it just another promise?” he added.