Cash-strapped businesses and new Longford based start-ups could be thrown a much needed lifeline.
Local politicians together with members from Longford County Council’s executive are to look at ways different incentives can be afforded to small and medium-sized enterprises.
The move, which is likely to involve input from each of the council’s three newly-introduced municipal districts, was approved at a meeting last Wednesday.
Cllr Micheal Carrigy (FG) led the pleas for what he termed a “special dispensation” to be handed to new businesses and ones strangled by exorbitant commercial rate charges.
“There must be some way we can help people to start businesses,” he told the meeting.
“Rates are also one of the biggest reasons why people don’t open businesses.”
Support for the Ballinalee postmaster’s request was prompt and unanimous from both sides of the council chamber.
Cllr Martin Mulleady (FF) said helping pressurised firms was a problem which had intensified in recent years.
He suggested waiving rate charges to newly established enterprises for six months in a bid to generate cashflow for local businesses.
Allowances, Cllr Mulleady said, would have to be given in certain cases to existing companies in order to eliminate any discriminatory concerns.
This came after Cllr John Duffy (FG) cautioned against handing down a blanket rates exemption to new start ups.
His party colleague, Cllr Paul Ross said he had spoken on how a three-year rate charge agreement might work at the April meeting of Ballymahon Traders Association.
He said the time had come to aid squeezed ratepayers and questioned why previous council administrations had found it difficult to arrange meetings with government ministers over the issue.
“From my diary, I see there are three ministers coming to Longford over the next three weeks, so it surely can’t be that hard to meet a minister,” said the 37-year-old Legan represenatative.
Fianna Fail’s Seamus Butler said rate charges were effectively a “dead tax” for small and medium firms.
He said rather than solely attempting to resolve the rates crisis, legislative difficulties called for a more subtle approach.
“We should look at other ways, rather than a direct frontal attack on rates,” he said. “After all, there is always more than one way to skin a cat.”
Exactly how that is done will depend on the power-brokers within Longford County Council and its three municipal district areas.