The government has agreed with local authorities that they should agree to defer rates payments due from the most immediately impacted businesses – primarily in the retail, hospitality, leisure and childcare sectors, for three months, until end-May. This measure will be implemented by each local authority in its own area.
Recognising that this flexibility will have implications for local authorities in terms of cash flow and critical service delivery implications, short-term cash flow support for local authorities will be made available. It will review the arrangements, as required.
The announcement was made by Ministers Murphy, Donohoe and Phelan today (20 March). Local authorities deliver critical services, including emergency response, housing, homelessness, parks and amenities and they are working with the HSE at national, regional and local level on the co-ordinated response to COVID-19.
Businesses around the country contribute €1.5 billion in commercial rates to local authorities every year. This is a critical source of income, making up between 16% and 53% of total funding for essential local services at individual local authority level, averaging 33% nationally.
Local authorities are working as part of the State’s co-ordinated response to dealing with the Public Health threat posed by COVID-19, while also helping to ensure that the impacts on communities, businesses and other stakeholders are minimised.
They are acutely aware of the potential issues faced by their ratepayers. In particular, in the first instance, businesses, such as those in the hospitality sector, small and medium retailers, leisure and childcare areas, have been identified as those that could be adversely affected.
The Government is engaging with business owners and representative bodies nationally, while each local authority is engaging with its ratepayers and representative groups, monitoring the impacts at this stage of the COVID-19 response and keeping the evolving situation under review.
Already, individual local authorities are dealing with difficulties experienced by rate payers on a case by case basis. They are taking account of business pressures at this extraordinary time in terms of collection of rates and enforcement, in the sectors most impacted so far.
While the identified types of businesses may be most impacted initially, local authorities are also conscious that there may be impacts on other categories of ratepayers as the impact of COVID-19 and responses evolve and are monitoring the situation closely.
Individual local authorities have a long-standing relationship with local businesses and are very well placed to deal with this evolving situation and its impact on ratepayers in their own local authority areas and operating environments.
Any commercial ratepayers that have had to temporarily close or significantly curtail operations during the COVID-19 response period should contact their local authority immediately in relation to any rates payments falling due in the period to end-May. Ratepayers that can continue to pay their outstanding local authority rates should continue to do so in the normal way.