Thursday, 29 September 2022
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
I raised similar points with the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Deputy Eamon Ryan, last week but I am not convinced that the Government appreciates how many family-run businesses and SMEs are close to closing. It is likely that many will at least shut temporarily during the winter and some may not reopen without proper support. The VAT rate for the sector is increasing in March. The exorbitant prices people have to pay for some Dublin hotels was cited as a rationale for the change to VAT but the whole sector will have to pay for that. Rural businesses are suffering because of the prices charged in Dublin hotels. Cafés, restaurants, pubs and hotels in rural areas like west Cork need targeted interventions now because their closure will have a disproportionate effect not only in terms of people losing jobs, but a reduction in footfall will have a knock-on impact for suppliers and producers.
Another operating cost of which the Minister of State will be aware is the insurance and financial fees that SMEs are being hit with. I know this is not his Department's direct responsibility but it seriously impacts the viability of small businesses. West Café and Wine Bar in Bantry, a family-owned business, posted on social media that it had to pay over €800 in fees for card payments for just two months which is ridiculous. During Covid going cashless was encouraged and now it is practically the norm but businesses are paying severely for that. I ask the Minister of State to raise this issue with the Minister for Finance. It is yet another operating cost for hard-pressed SMEs in the hospitality sector. On top of those massive operational cost increases, businesses in Bantry have been forced to close today for a whole business day as the town is without power. The ESB has cited essential maintenance but surely that kind of maintenance and disruption should be planned for overnight, for a Sunday or for any time that would avoid further massive disruption to already-struggling businesses. We need joined-up thinking in this regard because there is only so much businesses can take.
We need the Government to support and invest in family businesses and SMEs now because that will pay dividends down the road and save many towns and villages. We know how crucial the hospitality sector was in our recovery from the last recession.