Call for suite of supports for 'barely breaking even' Cork businesses

Cork City Council is to waive commercial rates for the first quarter, but interest groups say this is just the beginning of what businesses need to cover their losses
Call for suite of supports for 'barely breaking even' Cork businesses

Eoin O'Sullivan, president of Cork Business Association, says a 'suite of supports' is needed to keep businesses afloat. Picture: Jim Coughlan

Business leaders in Cork City have welcomed a targeted commercial rates waiver but said the small business sector will need restart grants post-Covid.

Eoin O’Sullivan, president of Cork Business Association (CBA), said the decision by Cork City Council to defer rates payments for the first quarter of the year for businesses most impacted by level 5 restrictions was something the sector would have expected. Those restrictions have been in place since January 6.

“This needs to be part of a suite of supports for business owners to survive this pandemic,” said Mr O'Sullivan.

“There are so many in business that are barely breaking even. Most are juggling the various fixed costs just to get out the other side so any additional supports like a rate waiver are to be welcomed.

But the sector will need substantial restart grants to kickstart the economy post-Covid-19. 

The city council announced the targeted rates waiver scheme on Monday and said a three-month waiver will apply to eligible businesses and will be applied to rates accounts in the form of a credit in lieu of rates.

The value of the waiver is equivalent to quarter of the annual rates bill for 2021 and the scheme is open to businesses closed by or badly impacted by level 5 restrictions, subject to a maximum value of €160m.

It is estimated that the scheme will cost the city some €12m. Last year, the council claimed back €54m from central Government to cover its nine-month rates waiver.

Rates waiver

The new rates waiver scheme applies to businesses in hospitality, personal care including hair salons and beauty salons, leisure, miscellaneous entertainment, non-essential retail such as shops and warehouses, Cork Airport, health, service stations, childcare, and essential retail excluding large supermarkets greater than 500 sq m.

The council said while it will start issuing rate bills soon for 2021, they will not include the waiver, but a spokesperson said those eligible for it will get a statement in April or May showing their reduced liability. Ratepayers who are deemed not to qualify can appeal.

The council’s head of finance John Hallahan said the council is acutely aware of the challenges faced by businesses.

“We will continue to work with our ratepayers on a case by case basis and are asking businesses to contact us,” said Mr Hallahan.

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