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Businesses should engage with council for rates deferral, says Coffey

Emma Coffey Dundalk
Councillor Emma Coffey and Park Street, Dundalk. Photo Credit: Adrian Crawley.

Business owners affected by Covid-19 are being urged to engage with Louth County Council and apply for a moratorium of payment of commercial rates on their premises. Fianna Fáil councillor Emma Coffey

Local authorities have been asked by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government to defer the collection of rates for a three month period, at least. The council will consider deferral of payments for business ‘most immediately impacted’ by the pandemic.

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“There is a strong emphasis on the local knowledge of local authorities and their relationships with rate-payers in terms of assessing the possible impacts on individual businesses,” Cllr Coffey said . “That said, local authorities are being asked to take particular account of the various pressures currently facing ratepayers  “in terms of collection of rates and enforcement” in the sectors most impacted and to be aware that the categories of ratepayers impacted may change over time.”

The Dundalk South councillor sought clarification on the matter during Monday’s meeting of Louth County Council at Town Hall in Dundalk, where she was told by Chief Executive Joan Martin that the issue was “complicated” and “not clear cut.”

“The bottom line is we will always deal with businesses in a sympathetic manner,” Martin said. “A moratorium could present councils with considerable cashflow difficulties. We are where we are. We will have cash flows difficulties from that and from the loss of money from pay parking. That is a big amount of our income as well.

“We haven’t thought it through yet. We will clarify our thinking on it. As of today, we will not be taking anyone to court who can’t pay because of Covid-19.”

Cllr Coffey says the local authority should urge ratepayers who are experiencing difficulties associated with the coronavirus outbreak to get in contact with the council. “Councils are being asked to establish dedicated ratepayer contact channels to facilitate businesses to engage with the local authority. In those circumstances, I would urge all business owners who are impacted by the Covid-19 epidemic to contact their local Authority and apply for the 3 month moratorium,” she said.

Louth County Council, whose annual budget for 2020 shows they expect to bring in approximately €35 million through commercial rates, are also set to benefit from central government support in the meantime to help make up any shortfall in income in the county.

They will receive some Local Government Fund monies from the annual cycle of funding and payment of Local Property Tax allocations from central government are to be brought forward. “It is intended that the above measures will help in some way to sustain Council cash flows in the coming weeks,” the councillor said.

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