Wednesday, 10 July 2019
Local Government Rates and Other Matters Bill 2018: Committee and Remaining Stages
I wish to speak very much to the spirit of the amendment. We are going through a major transition period regarding the main shopping streets, but even in urban areas, shopping centres in town centres find it very difficult because people have changed their way of interacting and they now purchase online. It is always the most vulnerable in society who are worst affected by the transition. We must manage the transition to make sure that the services remain in place. I accept what the Minister of State said about local authorities having discretion to work with businesses but, unfortunately, not all local authorities do so. We must make sure, as we have done in the amendment, that the Minister is empowered to give stronger instruction to local authorities on the management of the transition. We are not going to prevent change. Change is happening in every town and shopping centre. Whether one is in Dublin, Carlow or Donegal, we all see that the shopping centre is changing. We must work to make sure that there is a shopping centre, gym or small community facility in Clondalkin, Tallaght or elsewhere.
The spirit of the amendment gives the Minister a little more direction. I do not think the language of the amendment is quite right yet. What we want to do is empower the Minister to act when local authorities do not engage with businesses or assist them with the transition. There is no role for local authority councillors in that regard because the manager has executive functions in the matter. I refer to setting the rates, the valuation and how the ratepayer is treated. The Minister of State could examine the spirit of the amendment and consider whether he could introduce a statutory instrument to empower the Minister to instruct local authorities to work with small businesses that experience a sudden spike. We could look at percentages for the spike. If the rates go up by 5% it would be automatic but if it is greater than 5% there should be a transition management because the business itself could not support a larger increase suddenly. I will not give the Minister of State the percentage increases but the matter could be examined.
I do not wish to delay proceedings further. I support the intention of the amendment. I can see where it is coming from in terms of the business sector. I have dealt with people who have experienced a large spike. The Minister is constrained regarding the rates. I urge the Minister of State to look again to see if there is a way to achieve what he wants to do as well. I do not say that it is not the intention of the Minister of State because this is what he would like to see as well.The Minister of State might give a commitment to the movers of the amendment that he will work with them to try to resolve the issue, which is well highlighted. It was highlighted by Fianna Fáil on Committee Stage also. There is a willingness on the part of everybody to work with him to try to resolve the problem. I seek a strong commitment from the Minister of State that he is clear about the problem and that we will work together to come up with a solution.