LOCAL authority rates are one of the biggest pressures on business, according to IBEC Cork, and needed to be reduced significantly to reflect new realities.
Irish business pays €1.6 billion in commercial rates every year, the group (the Irish Business and Employers confederation) claimed at its recent AGM at the Rochestown Park Hotel.
IBEC Cork also called for the adjustment in Budget 2013 to be done in a way least damaging to growth. Any increase in labour costs will make it more difficult for companies to hire new staff and will push some companies out of business.
In particular, it said the introduction of a statutory sick pay scheme or any increase in PRSI would cost jobs and set back the recovery.
Speaking at the AGM, IBEC Cork president and CEO of Port of Cork Brendan Keating said businesses continue to be under pressure to cut costs and regain competitiveness. However, he said, the high level of commercial rates poses one of the biggest challenges to business across Ireland.
"While it is encouraging that some councils have frozen or decreased commercial rates, we need to see further action right across the country," said Mr Keating.
"Many companies are struggling to survive and rates only add to the pressures many are under. Commercial rates must be reduced to reflect new economic realities.
"The planned €3.5 billion adjustment in the upcoming Budget needs to be done in way least damaging to growth. Any increase in labour costs, through either a PRSI increase or by pushing more sick pay costs onto employers, will make companies less likely to take on new staff and will push already struggling firms out of business.
"We desperately need to create news jobs, raising tax on work is the last thing we need.
Mr Keating said austerity alone is not the answer. "We need government to deliver the conditions for economic growth, both at a national and regional level," he added.