DUNDALK Town Centre Commercial Manager Andrew Mawhinney has admitted he “would be concerned” by the possible impact of measures implemented in last week’s UK Budget on this area.
The budget, presented last week in the House of Commons, saw petrol prices lowered by a cent while alcohol – one of the primary reasons for people going North – remained unchanged.
However, perhaps the most worrying aspect was the proposal to lower the corporation tax rate for Northern Ireland to give it more of a fighting chance against the Republic’s 12.5pc rate, which has attracted top brands such as Warner Chilcott, Probiotic Ltd and many others to this area.
While admitting that the budget was “worrying” though, Mr Mawhinney said he was hopeful that Dundalk could hold onto the edge it has got in the past number of months by continuing to promote the town in a positive light.
“I would be concerned by it,” he said of the UK Budget.
“Things were coming back nicely in this area and from talking to a number of local retailers, they were starting to see a lot more sterling coming in, certainly more than this time last year.
“My concern now is that competition will be a lot tighter on both sides of the Border. People were starting to come here from the North and whether that continues to happen now I don’t know.”
The last thing that the TCCM wants to see is a return of local shoppers to the likes of Newry and Banbridge but he insists he will do all in his power to ensure that does not happen.
“We have a number of events coming up which we will be unveiling shortly and we hope to maximize their potential for the benefit of everyone in this area.
“We just need to be on our toes a little more now and constantly playing the Dundalk card.
“There is great value in town but you can see what the North are trying to do too.
“We just need to show as much value for money as possible here and I believe the revamped Market Square will be the catalyst for the town to start growing again,” he said.
Mr Mawhinney’s concerns were echoed by Dundalk Chamber of Commerce president Paddy Malone, who called on the Irish government to respond to their UK counterparts’ budget.
“The Government needs to respond to events in Northern Ireland,” he said.
“Decisions in both Dublin and London on tax matters have never taken the border into account. The result is that Dundalk and Newry have both experienced boom and bust. Discussions made in one jurisdiction have had significant impact on the other.
“What is required is a stable position where both can thrive.
“The 12.5pc rate is the best hope that Dundalk will attract further Foreign Direct Investment, particularly to the state of the art facility at Mullaharlin.
“If Northern Ireland has the same rate of corporation tax as the Republic then the factors that will decide whether an FDI goes to Dundalk or Newry will be made on the cost competiveness. Areas to be considered include commercial rates, energy costs, and wage cost - not joint minimum rates. We in the South need to lower all of those costs.
“Last year the Chamber requested the Government to prioritise the re-rating of property in the border region first, rather than Cork or Dun Laoghaire. This was on the grounds that we are in direct competition with a different system 10 miles down a motorway. We are repeating that request to the new Government. The Town Council did reduce rates by 2pc in 2010 and 3pc in 2009 but more needs to be done,” said Mr Malone.