A FIANNA Fáil councillor who did not support his party’s proposal to introduce a two percent rate increase in the 2019 budget says local businesses are struggling to survive.
Achill-based councillor Paul McNamara was the only Fianna Fáil councillor not to support the amended budget put forward by his party colleagues along with a number of independent councillors at last week’s budget meeting of Mayo County Council.
The amendment was passed but Cllr McNamara abstained from the vote in protest at the two percent rate increase.
Cllr McNamara told The Mayo News that his Fianna Fáil colleagues were disappointed by his stance but he stood by his decision. He said the hospitality sector has already incurred a 4.5 percent increase in VAT from the national budget and the local retail sector was on its knees due to online shopping.
“You cannot compare the hospitality sector in the west of Ireland where we have a tourism season of 12 weeks with Dublin and the east of the country. The retail sector has been struggling for years and now it has to compete with online shopping. In Achill alone I was talking to a courier who said for Black Friday they had to put on an extra van to cater for deliveries in Achill.
“This only benefits the large multinational stores who can cater for online shopping while the small local stores are being squeezed out. Now Mayo County Council are putting a two percent hike on their rates when they are on their knees. It is crazy and I could not support it,” he said.
Cllr McNamara said that local businesses were struggling to keep their doors open and unless they were supported he said they will not be able to stay open.
“We will have a major crisis on our hands in the next four to five years and more businesses will have to close their doors. There is a lopsided economy in the country and there is no way you can compare the retail and hospitality sector in the west to that in the east of Ireland,” he said.
Cllr McNamara said it was time the local authority started to think ‘outside the box’ to balance their budget instead of always targeting the rate payers.
“I have asked Mayo County Council what services they are providing to rate payers to justify an increase in rates. The local authority no longer provide water services or collect refuse and businesses still have to pay for these services. It is not right that in order to balance their budget the council pass on the cost to businesses who are already struggling. It is time the council started to think outside the box.”