I was delighted yesterday to read the news that Limerick City Council are introducing an incentive scheme to attract new retail tenants into the city. This is a scheme which we first suggested to City management last April and that was also contained in a detailed report we produced last August which made several suggestions in addition to this on how to promote and incentivise businesses to the city centre (report available here).

However with the closure of another retail unit on O’Connell Street this week (Birthday’s Card shop) and the sad news that one of Limerick’s most well-known ladies boutiques’ (JR’s) is about to shut, I am disappointed that the scheme wasn’t extended (as per our proposal) for existing businesses. We need to do something to keep those in business, in business. I read a comment in the Limerick Leader today by one of the city’s most famous fashion icon’s (Celia – and I quote!) “Everyone is saying the rates are crippling them and so many businesses have gone. Surely there’s a message there“… I couldn’t agree more. The cost of doing business for retailers is crippling and this coupled with the complete collapse in consumer spending (particularly since the new USC’s hit people’s pay packets since the start of the year!) means that something drastic needs to be done to ensure employment in the industry is maintained.  We called for a 25% reduction in rates from City Council last year and were laughed at for an unrealistically optimistic figure… perhaps the figure is unrealistic for city hall to swallow, but it is very much in-line with what retailers (and those who they employ in our city!) need and also matches what the national organisations like IBEC are also now calling for. The chamber in Limerick and nationally, will continue to lobby government to revise the funding mechanism for local government as the current situation which unfairly burdens businesses with the cost of funding local government is imploding!

Of course one of the most realistic ways to achieve greater stability in Limerick (city & county) is to get the recommendations of the Limerick Local Government Report implemented. This is forecast to generate annual savings of €20 million – which must be passed onto businesses through reduction in commercial rates. Even if half of this was achieved, it would allow rates to be reduced by the 25%.  Please, please, as a city let’s get behind this report – lobby our newly elected representatives and save ourselves from the downward spiral that is occurring in our city…