THE DOWNWARD trend in commercial rates in Fingal over the last number of years has come to an abrupt halt in the budget for 2013 which will see the rate charged to local businesses by the council unchanged in the year ahead.
The news will come as a disappointment to the struggling business community in Fingal but the council has defended the decision, saying it has already substantially cut the rate and effectively injected €50m into the local economy in recent years as a result. That was the argument put forward by the council's head of finance, Des Bruton, and echoed by county manager David O'Connor as they presented the budget proposals to councillors last week. Mr Bruton said there had been a reduction of €50m in the council's 'rates take' from 2010 to 2012 which amounted to a 'very significant' reduction in the rates burden on local businesses.
He revealed that the county's industrial sector accounted for the greatest part of rates income, contributing some 32% of the total, with the retail sector contributing half that amount. Mr Bruton said that the rates collection rate for 2012 would come in at about 82%, which he said compared well to other local authorities and was down to council staff keeping lines of communication open with those business struggling to pay their rates bill. County manager David O'Connor also stood by the decision to leave rates unchanged in 2013, saying it would have been ' dangerous' for the council to reduce them further.
Commercial water rates, however, will continue their upward trend and are set to rise by 8.7% in the year ahead. Cllr Kieran Dennison (Fine Gael) said he was in the habit at budget time of asking for greater reductions in commercial rates but said he decided not to do so this year because there was ' so much uncertainty' in the year ahead in terms of the council's finances. Cllr Matthew Waine (Socialist Party) said that the county's rates system was 'inadequate' and there should be some way of charging larger and profitable businesses a greater rate without affecting struggling smaller businesses. Mr Bruton said that legislation prevents the council from having different rates and it was legally bound to strike a single rate for the whole county.