Rates still vary significantly throughout County Wexford
BUSINESSES in rural Wexford pay 33 per cent more rates to the Council than their counterparts in New Ross town, while business owners in Gorey town pay 37 per cent more than the equivalent businesses in New Ross.
This disparity was highlighted at a meeting in Gorey last week, when a call was made for rates parity across the county.
Local authorities have been given ten years to reach a standard rate, but the business owners at last week's meeting are calling on the changes to happen sooner rather than later.
Businesses in Gorey town currently pay the highest rate in the county. Here, the figure of €76 is used to calculate the amount they owe according to their size, location, and the nature of their business. Businesses across the county outside the four main towns, are rated using €72.
In comparison, €55 is the figure that applies when calculating the rates in New Ross town; in Enniscorthy town, the figure is €62; and in Wexford town, it's €68.
The eight Gorey District Councillors or their representatives were in attendance at last week's meeting, as was Cllr. Barbara Anne Murphy from Bunclody, as were up to 40 local business people.
They now plan to step up their campaign, and to hold a large meeting this Wednesday, July 16, in The Amber Springs Hotel, Gorey, at 9 p.m.
'Business people are very concerned about this,' said Cllr. Malcolm Byrne who organised the meeting with business people in Gorey. 'During the election campaign, this was the main issue that business people were raising with us.'
'This Autumn is the best chance to get a better deal for the Gorey and rural areas,' he said. 'The Council doesn't yet know what level of income it will have from central government, but it should know by September. Only then will it be able to make a decision on next year's rates.'
'We have to support businesses in maintaining and creating employment,' he said. 'We're asking that when the County Council adopts its rate this year, we move towards equity of rates. Similar businesses should pay the same. It's up to businesses affected by rates to make sure their voices are heard now.'
One of those present at the meeting was Conor Carton who runs Carton's Service Station in Camolin. 'We pay 33 per cent more than businesses in New Ross. It's a major disadvantage,' he said. 'If they equalised it, it wouldn't be as bad.'
'You have to pay rates, but when you are paying them, there should be parity,' he added. 'Why is Gorey, and all of rural Wexford, paying more than everyone else? Why are Wexford, Enniscorthy, and New Ross being subsidised?'
'I employ 20 people, and it's a disgrace that the same businesses elsewhere in the county pay far less rates than me,' he continued. 'You can't have one part of the county getting a better deal than another part of the county.'
Gorey solicitor Fiona Reynolds who also supports the campaign, said that to her, it seems 'inherently unfair that a business in Gorey will pay a higher rate than its counterpart in Wexford or Enniscorthy.'
She pointed out that Wexford has the highest provision for rent allowance in the country, and has a very high rate of unemployment, and this makes times tough for business. 'We've been carrying this burden in Gorey for years,' she said. 'Arklow pays a lot less than we do. We have to make additional profits to pay the extra rates. It is crippling business.'
'You can shop around for your electricity or phone provider, but there's nothing you can do about the rates bill,' she added. 'A lot of retail proprietors are not taking a wage, just so they can keep the place going, and then they have to pay rates on top of that. People who are running businesses are really struggling.'
Deirdre Redmond, who runs H&H Products on The Avenue in Gorey said that businesses are finding it very difficult, and rates equalisation would help. 'If the rates don't come down, I could see shops in Gorey closing their doors,' she said. 'Surely the Council can see that rates bills are being unpaid and there's a genuine reason for that. Small businesses are keeping the towns going, but they are not getting the support they need. I do believe everyone should pay the same.'
'I don't understand why Gorey is higher, and why rural Wexford is higher,' she added. 'Who decided all these rates? Spreading equalisation over ten years won't be of great benefit either. If rates were reduced then maybe businesses could perhaps take on additional staff members.'