Newly elected councils must introduce long overdue cost savings at local level.
Regeneration of town-centres must be a priority.
ISME, Wednesday 28th May 2014.
On the release of the Retail Sales figures by the CSO today (28th May), ISME, the Irish Small & Medium Enterprises Association, called for a freezing of all commercial rates across the country for three years. The Association urged all newly elected councillors to set about a reduction of the local authorities’ cost base so as to reduce or maintain current charges, which will allow hard pressed business a chance to survive, while consumer spending remains low.
Retail Sales figures for April show a decrease of -0.9% in volume in the month and -0.8% in value. There has been an increase of 6.8% in volume and 4.4% in value in the year. When motor sales are excluded sales volume was up 4.6% and sales value was up 2.8% in the year.
According to ISME CEO, Mark Fielding, “The incoming councillors must ensure that they are adequately briefed on the range of issues facing the businesses in their area. Their priority must be to reduce administration costs so that commercial rates and local charges can be curtailed. A new approach to Local Government financing is required. The burden placed on the business community by the current system is not equitable, efficient, effective or economical. This will allow SMEs, the key players in local economies, to survive and maintain local jobs”.
“The second priority is to use their term in office to create a long-term vision and work towards a return to bustling main streets rather than the high vacancy rates and poor footfall currently in place. The first action of all local councils should be the introduction of a freeze of all commercial rates and charges and the introduction of cost saving measures identified in the Local Government Efficiency Review Group report of 2010”.
Local councils can be advised and assisted by the Retail Consultation Forum to address the following:
Local government value for money audits, shared services and pooling of corporate services identified in the Review Group report of 2010.
Excessive retail business costs such as commercial rates, development contributions and charges.
The surge in Shadow Economy.
The introduction of a Code of Practice, with an ombudsman for the sector.
A review of the effect of the abolition of the Groceries Order on prices.
Town centre revitalisation.
Social welfare anomalies and inflexibilities.
The lack of bank credit availability for retail SMEs.