Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Local Government Shane Cassells says the Government needs to review the commercial rates system to ensure small enterprises are not forced out of business due to sudden hikes in their rates.

Deputy Cassells made the comments after raising the issue earlier this week with the Secretary General of the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, John McCarthy.

Deputy Cassells said, “During a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee earlier this week I highlighted issues that have been raised in relation to commercial rates. Many small businesses are being hit with substantial commercial rates bills which are making it difficult for them to continue trading.

“The system of state valuations is unwieldy and does take account of commercial reality. At present the rolling area-by-area revaluations are often not undertaken for up to 10 years. As a consequence, on-the-ground valuations of commercial properties often bear no relation to reality. Many struggling businesses have been stuck with a valuation undertaken during the boom years, when property prices were at their highest, and have been struggling to pay these inflated commercial rates ever since.

“There is a need to introduce an “ability to pay clause” as well as allowing for ”rate holidays” in calculating the commercial rates for individual businesses. This will allow business to appeal commercial rates bills on the grounds of financial constraint directly to the local authority in a clear organised format.

“During the course of the meeting the Secretary General confirmed to me that more than a third of all funding for local authorities, some €1.47bn, comes from commercial rates. Meanwhile, central exchequer funding for local authorities has fallen in recent years which has put pressure on key services. The Government needs to ensure that small businesses do not end up paying disproportionately for the funding of such services in the years ahead.

“The Government needs to ensure that fairness is at the heart of the commercial rates system. Reform is needed in this area and Fianna Fáil has put forward comprehensive proposals to achieve this.”