By Kieran O’Mahony
A WEST Cork hotel suffered substantial losses in their income due to roadworks being carried out outside their premises that lasted 11 months.
Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) made the point at a recent Council meeting when supporting a motion raised by Cobh councillor Cathal Rasmussen (Labour). Cllr Rasmussen had called on the Council to consider looking at freezing rates in towns where roadworks are taking place over a long period, which he feels negatively affect business.
He was referring to current works being undertaken in his home town of Cobh.
But Cllr Carroll said this issue has been raised before in the chamber and that they acknowledge that rates cannot be reduced. ‘What I would like to see is that the Council are more aware of situations when businesses are being badly affected and there has to be a little bit more co-operation and more thought put into things,’ said Cllr Carroll.
Cllr Carroll referred to a hotel in West Cork which he said suffered dramatic losses in their income due to work being carried out for over a mile outside the premises.
‘The contractors were there for 11 months and the hotel was happy to see the work being done and actually facilitated the contractors on their ground but it got out of hand. They were supposed to be out of the place by the end of May, but they were still there in October.’
While Cllr Carroll accepted the Council cannot freeze rates he felt they certainly should be more helpful.
‘I think when they sign a contract and where it’s in a tourist area it should be part of the contract that they should be out by the end of May and come back again in September.’
He also highlighted the fact that road liners from Tipperary ended up there on the first Saturday night of August while a wedding was taking place. ‘This hotel suffered big time and a little bit more thought is needed when it’s affecting businesses,’ he added.
His colleague Cllr Sean O’Donovan said that his home town of Bandon is going through a lot of upheaval at the moment with the main drainage scheme taking place.
‘Members of the town’s Business Association had asked for paid parking to be extended to two hours free parking and while it’s isn’t appropriate to extend it, any help the businesses can get to survive is welcomed,’ said Cllr O’Donovan.
Cllr Kevin Murphy (FG) said that any major works in a town can prove a nightmare for any businesses and said they need to put their thinking caps on and questioned if reducing rates are the only method available.
‘We have to have a sympathetic ear for the businesses where the footfall and the income for them is down. We need to have some realistic proposals to help these towns when there is a dig in the town,’ said Cllr Murphy.
‘It happened in Kinsale between 2008 and 2011 and some businesses went to the wall during major roadworks in the town,’ said Cllr Murphy.
Cllr Paul Hayes (SF) said that West Cork has experienced major capital infrastructural works in recent years and that it has had ‘the whole shebang’ in various towns. ‘It’s fantastic to see money being spent and we have been calling for funding for infrastructural projects for years but it’s just the inconvenience that’s been caused to business owners,’ said Cllr Hayes, who added that ‘people need a break.’
‘I know of one particular service station in Clonakilty whose turnover was down by 70% during the works in the town during a very busy period. Anything that the Council can do to give people a breather is welcomed.’
Cllr John O’Sullivan (FG) pointed out that they need these businesses to sustain the towns and keep it viable once the works are completed. ‘If they are not there the works have less value then,’ said Cllr O’Sullivan.
Councillors were told in a reply that rates are not a tax on turnover or linked to profitability but are incurred solely because the property exists.
Chief executive Tim Lucey said that the Council does work closely with business associations and supports various events in towns and suggested that the Council’s economic development section could examine it.
‘Any reduction in an individual’s rates bill won’t increase footfall but what we can do is work with towns to increase their footfall and promote them,’ said Mr Lucey.
County mayor Cllr Christopher O’Sullivan (FF) said that any ratepayer facing difficulties is encouraged to contact the rate collection office.