Longford retailers believe July Stimulus measures don't go far enough

Liam Cosgrove


Liam Cosgrove



July Stimulus

The Government's July Stimulus package does not go far enough, according to some Longford retailers

Longford retailers have given an indifferent response to the Government’s July Stimulus package with some arguing its overall measures don’t go far enough.

Tax measures announced last week totalling €7.4 billion have been the subject of much debate as the country aims to kickstart its economic recovery in the wake of Covid-19.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said Ireland’s July stimulus plan is twice as large as that of the UK in relative terms, with a higher spend per person.

However, for local shopkeepers and sole traders on the ground, the concessions have been called into question in terms of their overall long term and likely impact.

“We need all we can get at the minute,” said John O’Brien of Matt O’Brien Fashions in Longford town.

“The announcement was good but personally I think they need to do more.

“The VAT rate has come down from 23 per cent to 21 per cent and it’s a small drop and personally I think it should have been done eight years ago as it’s still 20 per cent in the UK.”

Mr O’Brien welcomed a decision to introduce a €600m commercial rates waiver to help cash strapped firms but warned there were far more pressing micro-level issues at play.

“At the minute there is two hours free parking but the minute it comes back in it will keep a lot of people away.

“The only way to get things back to where they were is to get people shopping and the way to do that is by giving people confidence and through government support,” he added.

Micheal Ellis of Fresh Today was just as non committal, saying the tax breaks announced last week were positive in theory but fanciful in terms of their all round prospective delivery.

“We were extremely busy during the pandemic,” he said. “But we are going to Killarney and Cork and it’s outrageous expensive. I just don’t think reducing the VAT rate will have any addition at all.

“From a retailer’s point of view, I think they should have left it the way it was because how are we going to be able to pay for social welfare and everything else? I just think we will be left with an outrageous debt to pay.

Two of Longford-Westmeath’s four TDs Joe Flaherty (Fianna Fáil) and Peter Burke (Fine Gael) were both wholesome in their praise of the measures announced.

Mr Flaherty said: “For several months I have been dealing with local business owners who were wracked with doubt and whether they would be able to open for business again. A suite of supports in the stimulus will greatly assist them in this regard.

"The key now will be to ensure that as many local businesses as possible apply for and draw down the Restart Grant with likely grants now boosted by as much as 150%.”

His Fine Gael counterpart described the announcement as "comprehensive" and highlighted a €600m commercial rates waiver as a means towards reviving an economy which has been decimated by the ongoing health crisis.

“The waiver was initially brought in for a three month period and was designed to cover all ratepayers that had been forced to close," said Mr Burke.

"However, as anyone will know that has been on a high street in any major town recent months, normal commercial activity did not resume in July.

"From being in towns, from talking to business owners, it was clear that there was a worry that rates would be due and that the revenue would not be there to meet them.”