Rates boost linked to growth of smaller companies

EXPANDING small and medium-sized companies have been saluted for their contribution to a record commercial rates’ total in Cork county last year.

Nearly €80 million in rates was reaped by the local authority last year, up more than €7m on 2005.

County Hall emphasised the substantial increase was not solely driven by large multinationals, but rather by growth within small and medium-sized companies.

Ger Power, the county council’s head of finance, yesterday confirmed officials found that small and medium-sized businesses in the county were expanding as a result of the Celtic Tiger economy.

Between 2000 and 2006, the number of businesses paying rates in County Cork increased from approximately 8,000 to 8,700 — which was not a massive increase over six years. However, Mr Power pointed out many companies have significantly expanded the size of their premises, in addition to production growths, which accounted for the increased rates total.

“Existing businesses in the county are growing and that’s a very healthy sign of the economy,” said Mr Power. “A rising tide will lift all boats.”

In recent years, the council had lost some huge ratepayers, most notably Irish Steel in Cobh and GSI in Macroom. Despite such setbacks, the amounts being amassed in commercial levies continued to rise.

Pfizer, which has a number of factories in Cork employing more than 1,600 people, is also a significant ratepayer. News that the company is intending to sell off plants in Little Island and Loughbeg, Ringaskiddy, is naturally of concern to the local authority.

But Mr Power said he was hopeful that Pfizer would be able to find suitable buyers for the plants before the respective sell-off deadlines of 2009 and 2008.

However, if that doesn’t prove to be the case by the end of 2009, Amgen — a US-owned biotech company — is hoping to start production in a massive plant at Carrigtwohill which will employ 1,100 people. That company will be a huge ratepayer and will compensate for Pfizer if its factories fall idle.

Last year, rates totalling €78,839,002 were collected by the council which had netted €71,828.272 in 2005.

The collection success rate for last year was 97.72%, which was lauded by County Hall’s elected members as an extremely efficient system.

A very small percentage of arrears remain uncollected and officials are presently pursuing those outstanding.

“It is always a tough job to collect money but, in fairness to a majority of businesses and companies, they generally see rates as a necessity.

“In addition, the council has strong powers and we can go to court and get a decree in a relatively short time,” Mr Power said.

He also pointed out that rates collected last year represented 26% of Cork Co Council’s entire income.

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