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Andrea McKevitt / ‘Heavy burden’ must be lifted with extended rates waiver

Andrea McKevitt
Fianna Fail councillor Andrea McKevitt pictured at St Gerard's Hall in Dundalk. Photo Credit: Barry Landy.

A Fianna Fáil councillor has called on the Government to extend the commercial rates waiver in place for businesses nationwide until the new year.

Dundalk-Carlingford area Councillor Andrea McKevitt wants businesses effected to be handed a lifeline by the suspension of commercial rates until December 31 as the county, along with the entire country, goes into Level 3 lockdown as a result of the major resurgence of Covid-19.

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The new councillor, co-opted to the local authority in July, is calling on Minister Darragh O’Brien to revise the situation and ensure local authorities are compensated for loss of income, a vital source of revenue needed for the provision of everyday services in the county.

“Presently the wavier was in place until, September 27 however with the introduction of Level 3 across the country, the situation must be revised to lessen the already heavy burden being carried by business owners at this worrying time,” she said on Wednesday.

“Businesses need reassurance at this time, as they again face closure for a minimum of three weeks. They are heading into the unknown and it is crucial that the Government continue the commercial rates wavier to assist affected businesses in the current climate.”

“Many local family run businesses in north Louth are questioning when they will be permitted to open their doors again and will it be at a reduced capacity – there are so many unknows but the positivity of these entrepreneurs is shining through.

“The majority are thankful for the period they could reconnect with staff and customers. Some businesses are diversifying with a delivery or take away service to keep themselves occupied during this time.

According to Cllr McKevitt, one local business owner told her is was “heart-breaking” to be closing again and aired their concerns over whether or not their Christmas trade could be saved.

“A vast majority are already out of pocket having ensured all guidelines were strictly adhered to prior to re-opening their doors when the last restrictions eased – installing screens, sanitising stations, and providing PPE to their staff.”

The Cllr has made a representation to the Minister O’Brien calling on him to lengthen the commercial rates wavier for all business affected by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last month, it was revealed that Louth County Council had taken in €8 million less in commercial rates in the year to the end of August 2020, compared to the same period last year.

In July, the commercial rates ‘holiday’ to assist businesses affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown, was extended until the end of September by Minister for Housing, Planning & Local Government, Darragh O’Brien.

A fund of €600 million was announced to offset any losses incurred by local authorities from loss of rates. However, as of September 21, the council confirmed they are yet to receive this funding.

A number of Cllr McKevitt’s Fianna Fáil colleagues on the council – including Cllr James Byrne and Cllr Emma Coffey – have previously impressed on Government the necessity for a commercial rates waiver to assist businesses during the pandemic.

It was revealed last month that the commercial rates waiver introduced by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government at the outset of the pandemic does not effect BIDS contributions in Dundalk and Drogheda, with some businesses in both those towns still liable to pay those fees to Louth County Council.

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