Businesses in Ennis and Kilrush are gearing up for a war on rates, with more than 1,000 people signing a petition against Friday’s decision to raise the commercial rate by more than 10 per cent over two years.
A campaign of resistance to the decision is currently being formed with prominent local business people, such as Brian O’Neill from the Rowan Tree Hostel, suggesting that action including a boycott of rates could be on the cards.
Councillors at Clare County Council voted in favour of a much quicker rates harmonisation that had been expected at last Friday’s annual budget meeting. Since the amalgamation of all Clare’s local authorities took place in 2014 – Clare County Council has been charging businesses different rates in different parts of the county.
The Department of the Environment has directed the local authority to harmonise these rates over a ten year period – but the council voted on Friday to make the change in just two years.
“I voted against this decision because I feel that the harmonisation of rates over two years is unworkable, particularly for businesses who have struggled to keep their head afloat through the downturn over the past few years and may have fallen behind on their rates payment. This decision is particularly unfair for them,” said Paul Murphy (FG), who voted against last Friday’s budget, including the rates hike.
“There is a lot of talk going on on the street of people boycotting the rates in the year ahead. It remains to be seen what will happen. These people are in dire straights and, I hate to be negative, but I fear that jobs will be at risk as a result.”
Ennis businessman, Brian O’Neill, criticised the councillors who voted for the rates hike in the budget.
“It was a shocking decision, the disregard for the businesses people of Ennis and County Clare. I was at the meeting, and to see councillors laughing and joking and texting on their phones while serious decisions had to be made was incredible. It shows you how disconnected these people are from the business people of Clare,” said Brian O’Neill.
“I will be recommending for businesses not to stand for it, that’s the truth of it. It’s a disgrace and it is not sustainable. Businesses are on their knees at the moment and cannot afford to pay the current rate, so throwing something else on top of it doesn’t make it any better.
“This is far from over. It’s not for me to say what will happen next. That budget was passed by a majority of councillors but who is to say that that is the end of it. Maybe some of the larger businesses who have huge rates bills may decide to stop paying them. Lots of decisions can be made, the strength is always in numbers.”
Meanwhile, Sixmilebridge businessman and PRO of RENUE in Clare, Joe Corbett, has collected hundreds of signature from businesses opposed to Friday’s move.
“This decision is nothing short of criminal, these businesses are actually people’s lives and livelihoods and should be treated as such,” he said yesterday.
The petition, organised by the RENUA PRO, can be viewed on http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/protect-ennis-town.

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