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Council sends SOS to government


‘GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO WAKE UP’ Fianna Fáil councillor, Paul McNamara. Pic: Michael McLaughlin

Michael Gallagher

Street cleaning and other daily services will soon cease in Mayo unless the county council receives urgent financial help from central government.
That was the stark message delivered by acting Director of Finance Tom Gilligan at Monday’s local authority meeting in Castlebar during a discussion on the impact Covid-19 is having on business and services across the county.
“This is an unprecedented situation and we expect €15 million of our income from rates to be impacted. If government doesn’t step in with a stimulus package soon, we won’t be able to clean the streets or carry our repairs to our housing stock,” the senior official stated in reply to a forceful intervention from Cllr Paul McNamara.
“Unless our local businesses are supported, and supported immediately, you can forget about it,” the Achill-based politician had told the meeting, which was held  in the TF Royal Theatre. “They’re the lifeblood of our communities and as far as I can see they’re being left to fend for themselves.
“Ministers have been in place for the past two weeks in Dublin, but there’s still no news on a stimulus package for business or an indication of what’s happening going forward. This lack of support is causing huge problems and this in turn will have a knock-on-effect for rates and services. Businesses that have managed to open again are only operating at half their capacity because of restrictions and I honestly cannot see how they will pay rates going forward.
“There is a three-month rates waiver in place at the moment, but that’s absolutely no use whatsoever. The government need to wake up and realise that businesses will not be able to pay rates at all in 2020.
“In fairness to Michael Ring, when tourism and hospitality needed a boost previously, he reduced the VAT rate and that needs to be done again now for at least two years,” Cllr McNamara stated.
Rates waiver
His comments were supported by Cllr Christy Hyland who called for all rates to be waived until at least January. “You cannot get blood from a stone. Many businesses have not reopened, some are on the verge of going out of business and most are suffering badly. They’re the lifeblood of our communities throughout Mayo and they must be supported in every way possible,” he said.
The situation facing the local authority was starkly laid out by acting Chief Executive, Peter Duggan, who agreed that assistance is urgently required.
“The biggest financial impact we’ve encountered during the pandemic has been a €1.7 million loss in rates per month. It’s very hard to assess how much of that will be recovered and it’s certainly a gap we cannot hope to bridge on our own. We hope something will be announced in the Government’s stimulus package next week.”
Mr Gilligan concurred that the situation was urgent and said Mayo County Council was working hard in support of the local business owners. “Our doors are always open and we’re always available to help in any way. I would urge every business in the county to look at our Restart Grant which is intended to help small business reopen after Covid. Please apply – we have estimated that up to 4,000 businesses in the county qualify for the grant yet less than half that number have applied.”
Cllr Hyland agreed that the grant was an option for many local enterprises but said that there was one section of society who were ‘bleeding the country dry once again.’
“The banks are at it again. We baled them out. We saved their skins, but what are they doing now? They’re screwing us all again. They’re screwing the mortgage holders who had to take a payment break and they’re actually looking to profit from the situation. I’m saying it here today and every national politician needs to stand up and tell them, they’re not going to get away with it this time,” said Cllr Hyland.