SOME of Cork County Council’s €100m annual income from rates should be used to compensate businesses affected by road closures.
That’s according to Independent Cllr Marcia D’Alton, who argued that any business that could show a 30% loss in trade during road works should be entitled to a reduction in their rates.
Speaking at a meeting of Cork County Council, Cllr D’Alton said the Council – as the authority that actually grants the road closure licences – should be held accountable because extended road closures are affecting businesses throughout the County.
She said that the Council and the business community have ‘a mutually beneficial partnership’ in so far as the Council could not operate without businesses and businesses could not operate without the services provided by the Council. She claimed that businesses that have been severely affected face the risk of closure and such a closure could mean the loss of a service to a community and a town. And, ultimately, she said, the loss of business would mean a loss of rates to the Council.
Cllr D’Alton said: ‘Road closures can have demonstrable effects on a town centre business by blocking shop frontage, restricting access or deterring footfall.
‘It can negatively impact the business trading environment and affect business finance.
‘A road closure is of a short duration is generally tolerable. But when the road closure continues for a prolonged period, business turnovers can be slashed and jobs lost.
‘Customer patterns are impacted. People who have been frequenting a shop for years go elsewhere, and when the prolonged road closure is over, those customer patterns may never re-establish, so even when the road is reopened, the effect of a prolonged road closure can linger.’
Labour’s Cllr Cathal Rasmussen seconded the motion and many councillors supported it, including Cllr Kevin Murphy (FG) who said roadworks in Kinsale from 2008 to 2011 meant he couldn’t even get into his own office. In response to the motion proposed by Cllrs D’Alton, Seamus McGrath (FF) and Michael Murphy (SF), Declan Daly, the Council’s deputy chief executive, said a rate is not a tax on turnover or linked to activity or profitability but is incurred solely because the property exists and is liable to be taxed.
He made the point: ‘There is pain associated with gain’ but added: ‘Our door is open to talk about payment plans or facilitating late payments.’