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Business rate payers must get a fairer deal

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Housing Minister Simon Coveney Photo: Steve Humphreys

Housing Minister Simon Coveney Photo: Steve Humphreys

Housing Minister Simon Coveney Photo: Steve Humphreys

For precisely 40 years - ever since an ill-judged but successful effort by Fianna Fáil to "buy" the 1977 General Election - business rate payers have carried an unfair burden in the funding of local government.

The abolition of domestic local rates back then has ever since left councils with few options for other locally generated revenues.

Too often the commercial rate has been a crude levy on businesses struggling to provide scarce local employment and important local services.

The inequities of the archaic system of commercial rates has played a part in the economic decline of our once strong provincial market towns.

For these reasons, among others, a promise of change by the Housing Minister, Simon Coveney, is most welcome. In fact, when you look at the business realities, it is to the credit of Irish businesses that an 82pc payment rate was recorded in the most recent year for which data is available.

Now Mr Coveney, who also retains responsibility for local government, wants to consolidate current rules, stretched across 20 pieces of law, and streamline the system. The key element will give councils power to "alleviate" bills for local businesses, taking account of their circumstances.

There will also be a variation in rate levels to be determined by councils and based on the type of business enterprises are engaged in. In part, this is to prevent an oversupply of one kind of enterprise in a town or village. Fast food outlets, with all their inherent challenges, come to mind here.

Councils will also get increased powers to collect - something which is good in providing fairness for all. The full details of this plan will be awaited with interest.

'Daffodil Day' hope is hit by hospital cancellations

There are few more potent symbols of hope in this country than the sight of those 'golden hosts' of daffodils. Their vivid blooms reassure us that winter is exiting and that longer, warmer days beckon. They tell us the year has turned.

So, it was very prescient of anti-cancer crusaders in the Irish Cancer Society to choose the daffodil as one of their key symbols. Friday marks the 30th 'Daffodil Day' in Ireland.

Pretty well everyone knows somebody who has been hit by the awful scourge that is cancer. Daffodil Day is a huge focus of solidarity and a source of hope for all of us.

But it risks being undone by yet more bad news from our troubled health services. Tom Ryan, president of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association, has today laid things on the line.

"The current practice of healthcare rationing is the root cause of the trolley crisis and the ever-growing waiting lists. Now this practice is resulting in the cancellation of essential surgery with increasing frequency," he said.

Sadly, these surgery cancellations also include urgent operations for those battling against cancer. It is too dreadful a prospect to contemplate.

Every day in Ireland, selfless professional people in our health service help people to win against cancer. But the problem of delays must be addressed.

People seeking to defeat the blight that is cancer, and their families, deserve every bit of support they can get.

Irish Independent