Covid-19 ‘massive’ hit to Laois businesses to lose council €7.6m in rates income

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan

Covid-19 ‘massive’ hit to Laois businesses to lose council €7.6m in rates income

Laois County Council expects to lose €7.6 million in business rates due to Covid-19 and will rely on Government funds to make up the shortfall to ensure delivery of services to the public.

The council's CEO John Mulholland described the impact of the virus as “massive”, and predicts that businesses may not be able to pay rates for at least the rest of 2020.

He provided an update to councillors last Friday, May 15.

“The impact of Covid on the business world is massive. Some sectors such as hospitality, leisure and retail are estimated to be so badly affected that no rates will be paid from these for 2020 and possibly beyond.

“The current estimate of income loss, in the absence of a rescue package from the exchequer is €7.6 million to Laois County Council.

“This equates to a loss of 58% of our 2020 rates warrant or €632k per month,” said Mr Mulholland.

He expects the Government to step in and support the local authority's delivery of public services..

“Fortunately, the Government has committed €85 million per month to the local authorities from March 27 until June 27 2020. The post-June 27 position will be considered by Government once the unwinding of public health restrictions has taken place.

“It is expected that Laois County Council will recoup on a pro rata basis a fair portion of the rates alleviation fund,” the CEO said.

Mr Mulholland said a further €400,000 has been spent by the council in supporting the county through the crisis.

“The second area of impact relates to the work that Laois County Council has done and continues to do during the pandemic.

“Not surprisingly, the Council has incurred additional unforeseen costs in areas such as: back up crews of retained fire fighters, additional personal protective equipment, procurement of laptops, teleconferencing and new phone lines, alterations to office layout, public messaging and variable message signs.

“The cost to date in supporting the public health message and responding to same is estimated at €400,000. The council has maintained a record of said costs in the event that recoupment can be made,” Mr Mulholland said.

Sinn Féin councillors Aidan Mullins and Caroline Dwane Stanley had asked for the costs. Cllr Mullins said the situation faced was “frightening”.

“This is a frightening scenario for the delivery of services across the county and Laois County Council cannot carry this financial burden alone. It is vital that the Government extends the rates alleviation fund beyond June 27.

“It’s clear from the figures provided by the Chief Executive that the ability of the council to continue to provide essential services will be severely hampered by this shortfall. Without assistance from the Exchequer it will be necessary to review and revise the entire budget for the year and some harsh decisions will have to be made,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Mulholland said the council resumed work in some areas on May 18.

“The Council in common with other sectors will ease back into operations such as road works, house construction and maintenance, maintenance of open spaces etc. All to be done having regard to public health advice and new safety protocols in the workplace,” the CEO told the Leinster Express.

He said there will be no significant return of staff county hall, in line with Government advice on continued remote working where possible.