Malone makes Dáil call for reduction in rates for Louth businesses
Dundalk Chamber of Commerce PRO Paddy Malone has called for a reduction in rates in Louth to help local businesses.
Speaking at a debate in the Dáil earlier this week at a gathering of the Committee on Budgetary Oversight, the local accountant outlined some of the problems local retailers were facing, including dealing with the volatility of sterling and the impending threat of Brexit.
Mr Malone proposed rates be reduced on a varied basis throughout the county based on the retailer’s proximity to the border.
He said: “What we are looking for here is a rates step-down.
“Louth, in particular, is having its rates revalued at present. Without moving the Border from north Louth to south Louth, we would say that one could reduce the rates by a certain percentage in the most northerly area, Carlingford.
“Dundalk is next, where one could reduce the rates by a slightly smaller percentage, followed by a slightly lower reduction in mid-Louth. Drogheda might then get some reduction, but not as much. These kind of relieving provisions would help greatly.”
He went on to outline that the current rates system was not working.
“Louth has the lowest collection rates in the country,” he said.
“The last time I appeared before the committee, it was below 50%, which led several members to email me asking for the correct figure. I gave them the exact figure, which was 49%. It has exceeded that but not significantly.
“The rates need to be rebalanced and reduced on a temporary basis. I argued this with the Taoiseach and he said it could not be done because of EU rules. We should seek a derogation for three, four or five years, just to let everything settle. I do not want the Border moved from between Armagh and Louth to between Drogheda and Meath. I want a derogation that comes down through the system. The fact that rates are being revalued at the moment gives an ideal opportunity to do this.
“Businesses in the Border region are not paying rates. The collection rates for Donegal, Monaghan and Cavan local authorities are almost as bad, though I do not know exactly what they are. We need to recognise the fact that we are not collecting rates and that if we are only collecting 52% or 53%, it means PayPal, Horseware and other companies are paying while firms on main street in Dundalk and Drogheda are not paying anything. We need to get them to pay something. They might make an effort to pay something they can afford to pay, rather than not even try to pay.”
He concluded by calling for support for people who travel across the border daily.
“What is critical is clarity over the movement of goods,” he said.
“The movement of people is also indirectly related to this issue as 3,000 people cross the Border in Louth each day out of 26,000 crossings on the entire island. I have two employees who travel from Monaghan, travelling in and out of Northern Ireland and through Cullaville in south Armagh to get to work. They then have to reverse that process. One of them said to me that she did not care about being late in the morning but was very anxious to get home in the evening to pick the children up. I cannot argue with her.
“The implications then of Brexit for a whole host of projects, and for the cost of doing business in the Border area, is significant. Any measures that can target the region would be a help,” said Mr Malone.