Ennis Chamber representatives have met with members of the Clare County Council Executive to discuss the letter submitted to December Meeting of the Local Authority in relation to the increase in Commercial Rates included in Budget 2016.
The meeting was organised after the Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, requested that the Corporate Policy Group consider the contents of the letter. No Cllr from the Ennis Municipal District was in attendance at the meeting nor was a Clare County Cllr present despite a request from Ennis Chamber.
Ennis Chamber outlined its concerns at the rising operational costs currently facing businesses in Clare and Ennis. The business representative organisation outlined the anger and frustration that exists within the local business community at the 5.75% rate increase. The letter submitted by Ennis Chamber sought the reversal of the increase in the Commercial Rate in 2016. At the meeting it was revealed that the Annual Budget was a statutory document and therefore non-reversible.
Clare County Council insisted that no discussion had taken place regarding a second increase of 5.75% for next year’s budget to complete the harmonisation between the Ennis and County rates. The local authority representatives, Tom Coughlan, Ger Dollard and Niall Barrett stated that all elements of Budget 2017 would be up for discussion as part of the consultation process and committed to full engagement with Ennis Chamber.
Failing agreement on the reversal of the Commercial Rate increase, Ennis Chamber asked Clare County Council to commit to working together on three key areas for benefit of the business community. These include; the revision and expansion of the proposed Rates Grant Incentive Scheme; the creation of 500 new permanent car parking spaces and reduction in unit cost to €1; as well as the creation of a Town Team for the advancement and promotion of Ennis, which would be funded through the ring-fencing of the full Commercial Rates increase.
On the extension of the Rates Grant Incentive Scheme to include all commercial rate payers, Clare County Council confirmed that all Ennis businesses will be entitled to a maximum of €250 or 5% up to €5,000, to be credited in 2017. Ennis Chamber was assured that the credit will automatically apply, with little red tape for businesses. The business representative organisation requested that the Corporate Policy Group of Clare County Council consider raising the threshold to €7,500 in order to capture the SME’s who provide majority employment in Ennis. Clare County Council agreed to consider the inclusion of all ratepayers who are in payment plans with the local authority, to be eligible for the Grant Scheme.
Ennis Chamber proposed the creation of a Town Team, stating that as Clare’s capital town the county needs a strong commercial core to ensure sustainability. Clare County Council requested that a submission be made outlining the proposed structure of a Town Team with a view to developing its potential together. On the issue of creating an addition 500 permanent car parking spaces in close proximity to the town centre prior to Fleadh Cheoil 2016, Clare County Council stated that it was currently reviewing a number of potential sites for parking in response to these requirements.
Ennis Chamber reiterated its call for additional permanent parking and the cost of parking in Ennis to be reduced to €1 per unit. Clare County Council and Ennis Chamber have conducted parking workshops in 2015 and the local authority are currently reviewing all parking options. The representatives of Ennis Chamber, Rita McInerney, Pat Morris, Jean McCabe and Brian O’Neill requested a timescale for such a review and implementation of new parking initiatives, as they feel the requirement is immediate.
Clare County Council committed to bringing the concerns and the discussions of the meeting to the Corporate Policy Group for review and will revert to Ennis Chamber with their response.