Struggling businesses may have been afforded some respite this week following Longford Town Council’s decision to freeze commercial rates for 2013 but their plight, it would appear, couldn’t be more precarious.
At present, commercial rate collection accounts for precisely 46 per cent of all revenue, making it by far Longford Town Council’s most significant source of income over the next 12 months.
To safeguard that figure councillors agreed to retain its annual rate (ARV) at €69.01 during a largely trouble-free budget meeting last Wednesday evening.
Yet, and in spite of that decision, Town Manager Frank Sheridan conceded businesses were finding it increasingly difficult to meet their overhead costs.
“Rate collection continues to be extremely challenging in the current economic climate,” he said in his draft budget submission.
“As a result, this will have a very serious knock on effect on the revenue funding over the various service divisions for the coming financial year.”
Had elected officials opted to trim the council’s ARV by just one per cent, local authority financiers would have had to find a further €32,634 in order to balance its books.
Another factor that weighed heavily on the minds of auditors when compiling this year’s draft budget was the council’s additional drop in financial aid from central government.
Known more commonly as the Local Government Fund, Longford Town Council expects to receive just over €830,000 between now and December, a substantial 38 per cent below the €1.34m it was provided with in 2008.
But for those businesses hoping for a subtantial lowering in rate demands during 2013, the upshot of last week’s meeting proved largely disappointing.
“The county council gave a one per cent reduction and we felt that the Town Council might have followed suit,” said Clamber of Commerce President Seamus Butler.
“There are a lot of businesses struggling out there and the fact is the more reasonable you make the rates the easier they are to collect.”
On the plus side, Mr Butler said the busy Christmas shopping period had thrown up some “positive signs” for the industry as commercial representatives begin to focus their thoughts on generating further optimism ahead of the county town’s St Patrick’s Day festivities in March.