Wednesday, 10 July 2019
Local Government Rates and Other Matters Bill 2018: Committee and Remaining Stages
I agree wholeheartedly with Senators Mulherin and Murnane O'Connor about the small shops. One of the centrepieces in this Bill is the alleviation scheme that is provided for under section 15. I spoke to the officials, when we were drafting this Bill originally, specifically with reference to rural towns and villages where the main street has suffered. There is now online shopping and people's travel habits and work habits have changed, and it is all of those things. It was a question of nailing down that alleviation scheme so that it can be designed by the members of a local authority. For example, in the municipal district of Ballina, they would pick not just Ballina town but Killala and Crossmolina and say that on the main streets in those towns there would be a reduced rate for a period of time, and that is underpinned by what is in the local area plan or the county development plan for the Ballina district of County Mayo. This legislation, for the first time, will give local authority members that power to introduce an alleviation scheme to target town centres in particular, because the Senators are correct that they have a social function.
I had a situation recently where two constituents, a couple in their 80s, came to me. They had an electrical shop in a town in my constituency and their valuation had increased to a level which was above their annual turnover. The way the husband looked at it, he was going to work in his shop until he died and that was just it. However, it was also the case that, within their town, it happened to be a big shop premises. The way around it, in terms of reducing their valuation from the Valuation Office, was to divide their premises so that more than half of it would be vacant. However, this defeats what the Department of Rural and Community Development is trying to do in terms of keeping town centres looking well and active.
Section 15 allows for the six councillors in Ballina district, for example, to say that, on the basis of their local area plan or their county development plan or the targets of Department of Rural and Community Development, they want to do something for the town centres in their district. That is what section 15 enables councillors to do for the first time. I probably did not explain that.