Louth county councillor Pearse McGeough has described the council’s budget for 2014 as a “death knell” for businesses throughout the county.
Councillor McGeough said the council was trying to help create jobs and set the financial scene for employment, but that the increase in the commercial rate was wrong.
“I think it sends out the wrong signal,” he said.
The council increased the rate by 0.5 per cent.
Cllr Tommy Byrne said he was “stunned and shocked” by the proposed increase in commercial rates in the county.
“I don’t know how people are going to pay,” he remarked.
Councillor Martin Murnaghan said that it was disappointing that €835,000 available to the council didn’t go into the budget to help rate payers. Over the last six months there were signs that the economy was “picking up” and asking people to start paying more was not acceptable.
Financial Director Bernie Woods pointed out that 64 per cent of rate payers paid less than €50 a week, and the average increase for those was 25 cent.
Councillor Byrne said they were talking about Celtic Tiger rates. Everybody took cuts, but there were no cuts in the rates. He questioned where the Government was going in relation to creating job.
Councillor Frank Godfrey said those paying high rates couldn’t afford to pay, and he felt there should be a reduction of five per cent, but even if it was two and a half per cent. The last thing the council wanted was to be pinpointed for the loss of jobs.
Something should be given to help businesses to survive and protect jobs.
Councillor Colm Markey called also for a two-and-a-half cent reduction.
Councillor Alan Grehan suggested a discount or incentive scheme for those who pay, but Miss Woods said that it was a very old scheme and didn’t allow for that.
There was provision to claim a refund, for which there was two ways to do that, one being if a premises was vacant. The councillors voted by 18-7 in favour of the increase, with the €700,000 of €835,000 additional money set aside to met the council’s liability in the Celtic Roads case, and the balance of €135,000 be equally spent on the roads programme and house adaptation grants.