Ennis Chamber is the business organisation for the town representing 175 member businesses employing over 3,000 local people. As a Chamber affiliated to Chambers Ireland, it is recognised in statue as a social partner for consultation in the business pillar at local, regional and national levels.
President Pat Morris recently contacted the Ennis Municipal District Councillors as well as the other Clare County Councillors, to highlight the fact that despite the introduction of the Local Property Tax, businesses continue to shoulder a disproportionate burden for the funding of Clare’s Local Authorities. Ennis Chamber understands that Clare County Council intend to harmonise Commercial Rates upwards in the shortest period provided for in the Local Government Reform Act 2014. This will result in an increase by 11% over two years in Commercial Rates for Ennis businesses. Ennis Chamber believes that the Draft Budget 2016 provides for a rates grant, however the business organisation contends that this scheme is unworkable. This is due to the fact that a large number of small and medium businesses have struggled to keep trading whilst retaining staff and may be in rate arrears due to the collapse of the economy and consumer spend over the last 8 years. These businesses will need at least 5 years of good trading to get to the end of paying back these arrears, whilst at the same time paying each year’s new Commercial Rate demand. Therefore Ennis businesses are not in a position to endure an increase of 11% to equal the Clare County Council Commercial Rate and such a move will put jobs at risk in Ennis. This risk is exasperated by the recent announcement by Roche that they are to exit the site in Clarecastle with the loss of hundreds of jobs.
Ennis Chamber acknowledges that central government funding of Local Government has fallen in recent years, however in our dealings with Ennis Town Council during this time; the Commercial Rates remained steady whilst also continuing to invest in the town. In 2014 Ennis business contributed €5.4 million in Commercial Rate comprising 57% of the €9.5 million income of Ennis Town Council, at a time when businesses in the county contributed 35-40% of Clare County Council’s budget.
It had been previously estimated and it appears reasonable that the abolition of Ennis Town Council has resulted in savings of between €500,000 and €1 million from the loss of 9 Councillor payments, economies of scale due to the merger with Clare County Council, property liabilities such as Waterpark House, and other associated overheads. Even taking the lowest estimated figure as a realistic saving, this would represent a 5% cost saving in the overall Ennis Town Council Budget of circa €10 million. Therefore this cost saving should be passed onto the rate paying community who already carry the unfair burden of 57% of Ennis’s running costs. This €1/2 million figure represents 10% of the 2014 business community’s contribution of €5.4 million and therefore one would expect the result in a reduction of 10% in the Commercial Rate. At a minimum the Commercial Rate in Ennis should remain the same and the Clare County Council rate reduced on a phased basis over the 10 year period allowed by Government.
Therefore Ennis Chamber is appealing to all Clare County Councillors, in the interest of the survival of Ennis, not to engage in a harmonisation upwards of the Ennis Commercial Rate and will continue this lobby of behalf of member businesses.