Around 9,000 businesses in Co. Cork benefitted from the Government stepping in and funding €34.6m they owed the local authority in rates during last year's Covid-19 lockdowns.
Figures released by Cork County Council show the net effect of the Government's rates waiver scheme saw it paying off a substantial amount of what could have been a catastrophic amount of lost rates income due to the local authority over a nine-month period last year.
The council has around 11,600 rate-paying businesses on its books. However, some of the larger businesses were excluded from the Government-sponsored waiver scheme.
These included major pharmaceutical companies, along with a number of sizable technology, computer and electronic manufacturing businesses.
Also excluded from Government support were industrial and office premises with an annual bill of €100,000-plus, supermarkets with more than 500sq m of floorspace, windfarms, electricity-generating stations and global utility networks.
At the start of the pandemic in the spring of last year, many businesses were locked down and the council saw the potential for its main income stream being slashed, which could have had a serious knock-on effect on the services it could supply.
Heads of departments were told by council chief executive, Tim Lucey, to start slashing budgets and he forecast a gloomy outlook for the council's service-users. However, with the help of the Government scheme and big businesses which could still afford to pay, the council managed to collect €113.1m in rates.
Some €119.9m was collected in rates in 2015. Between then and the onset of the pandemic the rates income began to surge as the country rebounded after years of recession.
In 2017, the council collected €120.8m, rising to €123.7m the following year and peaking at €123.9 in 2019.
Arrears have also dropped over those intervening years as businesses enjoyed a post-recession boost to their incomes.
"Rate income accounted for 27% of total revenue income in 2020 and remains the most significant source of the council’s own funding," Lorraine Lynch the council's head of finance said.
"While Cork County Council is obliged to maximise its collection of our local commercial property tax to ensure that funding is in place to provide services to the people of County Cork, it is always conscious of the challenging circumstances in which certain businesses find themselves. Accordingly, rate collection staff continually engage with our circa 11,600 ratepayers and agree payment plans, where appropriate, on a case-by-case basis," Ms Lynch added.