Louth County Council Chief Executive Joan Martin admits the Dundalk BIDs company could be in “dire straits” soon enough, as a result of the extended commercial rates moratorium due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
As part of last week’s Budget announcement, it was announced that the rates waiver would be extended until the end of the year, having been in place since the Spring to help businesses that have seen a downturn or been forced to close.
However, last month, Ms Martin confirmed 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.
She said the decision to exclude the BIDS rates from the holiday was “a little bit petty.”
Sinn Fein councillor Joanna Byrne raised the issue during Monday’s meeting of Louth County Council, asking whether there had been any further guidance on the matter from the Department, citing how the loss of such income could hit the companies hard, especially in Drogheda.
“Any further financial losses will probably stop them in their tracks before they get up and running,” Cllr Byrne said.
Joan Martin, in response, said that the money for the BIDS companies in Dundalk and Drogheda is “still collectable.”
“Officially, we can pursue it but we cannot pursue it until January at the earliest,” she told the meeting. “In the long term, it will sit on their accounts. It will still be there.”
She told the councillors that it was the Dundalk BIDs company which “probably has a much bigger struggle”, citing a smaller rate they collect. She said that the total amount they receive in a year is €150,000.
“If they don’t get that, they are in dire straits. Drogheda get twice that,” Ms Martin said.
“The question is to keep the BIDs companies going and supporting them. It may be a case where we continue to give them money. We are giving them money now. It is to keep them employing their staff. I don’t intend to abandon the BIDS companies.
What is BIDs?
“Ultimately, the money is chargeable,” she added.
Speaking last month, Ms Martin said there was “an issue” as the payment of BIDs rates to the two companies in Dundalk and Drogheda was dependent on the local authority collecting it.
“In Dundalk and Drogheda, ratepayers are still liable for the BIDS percentage of the rates. People maybe wouldn’t have realised that. Every business thinks the waiver applies to them completely. That isn’t the case.”