Fianna Fáil TD for Longford-Westmeath Robert Troy has called on the government to provide greater support for business in Athlone. Deputy Troy made the comments following a Dáil debate on the significant issues facing businesses such as high commercial rates and rising labour costs due to government hikes in PRSI.

Deputy Troy commented, “There are strong IDA and Enterprise Ireland supported businesses in Athlone however there are many small and medium sized businesses, in particular the retail sector in Athlone, who are struggling to survive. One major problem facing businesses are high operation costs due to exorbitant commercial rates and rising labour costs. Unfortunately the government has yet to tackle these issues in any meaningful way.

“The cost of commercial rates in particular is placing significant pressure on small and medium sized enterprises. The government and local authorities need to recognise that they are pushing businesses off the high street by forcing them to close shop. Imposing high commercial rates that businesses cannot pay is a self-defeating policy that must be re-examined.

“Another significant pressure facing businesses is the growing costs of labour. The government has increased PRSI over successive budgets and this has placed a further burden on businesses.

“Last year Fianna Fáil launched a comprehensive policy document outlining the steps that need to be taken to revitalize towns such as Athlone. At the heart of our proposal is a new commercial rate system that incentives new businesses, has an inability to pay clause and tackles issues such as high rates and heavy parking charges that undermine businesses. This will help ensure that new start-ups are encouraged and struggling retailers and businesses are given the space they need to breathe and grow over time. Area’s such as Irishtown need support to help revitalise into a thriving area it once was.

“The government needs to act to reduce the significant pressures that have been placed on small and medium businesses. They are at the heart of our communities and cannot be neglected” said Deputy Troy.