There are fears this morning that a change in the way county council rates are levied may be the final nail in the coffin for businesses that are struggling throughout rural areas.
The latest concern arises following yesterday evening’s decision by Sligo county councillors at their annual budget meeting to start the so-called harmonisation of rates for businesses throughout town and county.
Sligo County Council should have started the process last year of working toward having the same rates throughoutout Sligo town and county.
The move toward rates harmonisation follows the abolition of Sligo Borough Council, with the county council now the sole local authority.
But it was not until yesterday’s council budget meeting that councillors bit the bullet.
That came about as a result of a proposal in the budget for 2017 to achive rates harmonisation over five years, by 2021.
In yesterday’s day-long discussions on the budget for the coming year, the rates issue was the most sensitive.
That’s because it’s expected that while rates for businesses in the Sligo urban area will be reduced, there will be an increase for those throughout rural areas.
Councillors were left in no doubt yesterday but that they had to start the process.
Council Chief Executive Ciaran Hayes told councillors they were legally obliged to do so; otherwise they could be removed from office by the Minister and replaced by a Commissioner.
Councillors voted by seven to six against a motion from Independent Councillor Margaret Gormley calling for no increase in commercial rates outside the Sligo borough area.
Fianna Fail Councillor Seamus Kilgannon propopsed the council achieve rates harmonisation over eight years, rather than the five proposed in the financial plan.
Council Chairman Fine Gael Councillor Hubert Keaney seconded and the motion was carried by seven votes to four with four abstentions.
Afterwards, Cllr Gormley spoke to Ocean FM News and expressed her deep disappointment at the move:
However, Councillor Kilgannon says the decision taken by councillors yesterday afternoon will result in an increase of less than €50 per year for most ratepayers in the county.
And he says it also means the council is working within the law.