THE Bandon Business Alliance (BBA), representing businesses in the town hit by the recent storms, has slammed Cork County Council for taking over €1m in rates every year, and then ‘absolving’ itself of responsibility to the traders.
In a strongly-worded letter to the editor of The Southern Star, the BBA has reiterated its threat to stop paying commerical rates from next June, if flood relief works have not started by then.
In the letter, the group said it wished to respond to recent comments from Tim Lucey, chief executive of Cork County Council, which he made in this newspaper on December 21st.
The letter said the BBA fully recognised that the OPW were appointed to manage the tendering and appointment of contractors for the flood relief scheme in the town of Bandon. However, it is Cork County Council who are in receipt of €1.1m annually from its 65 members, it pointed out.
‘These payments are made in good faith to allow our members to function normally,’ it added. ‘The Alliance does not accept that Cork County Council take €1.1m per annum in rates from its members, whilst at the same time attempting to absolve themselves from responsibility. Bandon Business Alliance reaffirms that by June 30th 2016, should flood relief works not have started then, the alliance will withdraw payment of Commercial Property rates totalling in excess of €1.1m,’ it continued.
‘The Alliance will continue to grow and support Cork County Council until June 30th 2016,’ the letter continued, ‘at which point support will regrettably be withdrawn.’
In a final, hard-hitting statement, it said: ‘The alliance will no longer accept false starts on dredging works of the river Bandon and will act immediately if such an event reoccurs. Cork County Council can update the alliance members by emailing [email protected]’.
In response, Cork County Council issued the following statement to The Southern Star: ‘The chief executive of Cork County Council set out the position of the Council in relation to the payment of commercial rates and The Southern Star covered this in full in an edition prior to Christmas. Therefore, the chief executive has nothing further to add to that position.’
Last week government TD Jim Daly agreed that the Council response was not adequate, and said the traders should be given a rebate. ‘Rate payers reasonably expect a basic level of service and protection from the local authority in return for their rates. While compensation payments from central Government will assist with repairs, a rate rebate is a necessary gesture from Cork County Council to assist with the very significant loss of earnings incurred by traders in Bandon,’ he said.
Speaking after surveying the scene in the town after the second flood in three weeks, Deputy Daly stated that Bandon town’s South Main Street was ‘destroyed’.
‘This is a most tragic and unique situation ... the traders need more than sympathy at this time. It would be wrong for the local authority to levy rates as usual on these premises in such an unprecedented situation that threatens the future of so many shops in Bandon.’ Deputy Daly’s own constituency office in the town was also flooded for the second time in three weeks.
Meanwhile, an estimated €5m has been spent on clean-up operations and road repairs in the county in the two weeks from December 19th to January 3rd, but a Council official has said the total cost could be as high as €20m.
See Letters, page 8; Flooding: The aftermath, page 5 & Flooding: What next?, page 2