The Chamber attended the annual City Council budget meeting this Tuesday and welcome their decision to reduce the commercial rates by 0.5%. While this is significantly lower than the 25 % requested by us, far from ‘Alice in Wonderland Economics’ we were always aware that a 25% reduction would only be possible with the help of central government. Nationally Chamber’s Ireland lobbying efforts ensured that the tax on second properties be given to help fund local authorities. The inadequate funding of local authorities and the unfair burden put on struggling businesses to make up the shortfall cannot continue going forward. 

At this juncture I would like to correct a statement I made during the week where I incorrectly stated that Limerick City had the highest rate in the country. Limerick is in fact the highest of all the cities in Ireland and approximately 20% higher than the national average (Although this may have altered slightly because of the various rate changes adopted by local authorities across the country in the past week). Counties Wicklow and Kerry have the highest rates.

The City Manager and Councillors made it very clear at the budget meeting that if a boundary extension was granted that rates could be reduced significantly. We do not disagree with this on the basis that it would lead to the elimination of duplicate costly services  – however it was falsely stated at the council meeting (on several occasions) that the Chamber oppose a boundary extension. I would  like to take this opportunity to clarify our position. The Chamber care about our city and want to see it become a strong vibrant city in the heart of a strong vibrant region.  We support the redrawing of the boundary to reflect our true city of 100,000 people.  However we differ with city council on one crucial point and based purely on the fact that every other option has not succeeded.  In an era where we need to cut back and rationalise more and to maximise savings, the chamber believes that unifying city and county authorities is the way forward to generate those savings as every other option attempted by our City and County local authorities has failed up to now. Whereas the recommendations of the Local Government Committee advise savings of Euro 20M per annum if the local authorities were unified, even if half of this was achieved, it would not only support many other worthy causes in the city but would also deliver the level of rates reduction the city centre needs to allow businesses to grow and prosper.

We were delighted to hear that the City Council is still thinking about the grant incentive scheme for new businesses that we proposed about eight months ago and we look forward to receiving the detail of that scheme early 2011.

I would like to wish you and yours a very peaceful and happy Christmas and I look forward to blogging and debating issues affecting our region with you in 2011.