Aggressive new rural commercial property rates could savage local Sligo businesses and jobs

County Council up to neck in multimillion euro debt.

Sligo News File Online.

Sligo County CouncilThe prospect of Sligo rural-based businesses being hammered
out of existence grows ever closer with plans to power up the  commercial property rates on the sector. Under the regime, rural enterprises will be subject to rates much higher than those of premises in urban areas, where business activity is much greater.

Management of the county council are searching desperately for avenues to lift the authority out of its sweeping debts, it needs millions of euro if its finances are to be restored to a satisfactory condition.

Much as they may have hoped the government would have thrown them a bailout, it’s now evident there’s sweet damn all sympathy for the financial condition in which the council finds itself.

A meeting with Alan Kelly, the Environment Minister left a delegation in no doubt as to what is expected of the authority, and, apparently that’s not going to change any time soon, if at all.

The outcome of the council’s meeting in Sligo today with a top Department of the Environment official, Paul Lemass, is not yet known. In a three hour engagement, he met with CEO, Ciaran Hayes and other officials of the authority. Councillors were not present.

Suggestions as have recently been made that the resources  of other councils should be dipped into to aid Sligo have gone down like a lead balloon, which is hardly surprising considering it would amount to asking the rate and taxpaying communities of the areas concerned to surrender assets they need for essential developments or works in their own areas.

The latest moves on proposed closure of library services has understandably raised the hackles of people in Ballymote and
elsewhere. They, including local businesses, are, like everyone else, being slammed up to the tonsils with an abominable level of taxes, charges as well as levies on everything from water meters, to
electricity, to motor and house insurance and much, much,
more. The council has a bloody neck if it expects them to now
stand by while library services are closed in order to facilitate resolution of a county council debt in the running up of which they had no hand, act or part whatsoever.

Why should they suffer? Why should any rural or urban community be obliged to sacrifice services crucial to their respective areas? No, no, they should not be, and it’s time management of the council recognized and accepted this.

John Perry TD has blasted the council’s proposed action on the libraries in particular. TD, Tony McLoughlin has spelt out in meticulous detail the extent of the usage in Sligo, and the scale of the public dependence on the service in the town. There has also been strong denunciation from Sligo Senator, Marc MacSharry. They are right, and their public comments, and statements of councilors and others, on the issue will have been welcomed by a public sick to the pit of the stomach at the way services can be chopped.

Perhaps, now, there is also a case for demanding a public inquiry as to how the county council has come to be so mightily indebted. It’s beyond comprehension that such a situation has been allowed to happen. An inquiry is an imperative, the people have a right to know, if for no other reason than to ensure this kind of thing can ever happen again.

Openness, transparency and accountability, further concerns, must be more than principles aspired to in public authorities, they must be the regular, everyday standard within which councils are operated. The public are paying – now through the nose – for their public bodies, they, therefore, must have the fullest entitlement to know and question how their councils are being managed, what’s happening within the structures and when it’s happening.

The media must be kept informed of events. It’s also not for any council to demand that media representatives are members of the NUJ or any other body, that’s no business of officials – public servants. Coverage of events has moved a long way from just the pages of the print media, new technological advances called news websites are now in place. And thank God for that.

Councils must move with the times, modern technological means
of news coverage isn’t going to disappear in the time ahead. More
and more it will become the watchdog of the public interest and the
public are accepting it because they know that, by and large,
those behind it will not take shit from any bureaucratic or political
quarter.