In Carrick-on-Suir, 24% of all retail units on the high street are lying vacant, Tipperary Labour Senator Denis Landy told the Upper House.
Subventions are needed by the Government to allow local authorities greater flexibility to pursue policies that promote businesses in town centres, such as the promotion of pop-up shops and once-off-type shopping, he said.
Speaking on the new Valuation Bill, he said its aim is to alleviate some of the pressure on the small to medium-sized enterprise, SME, sector and on artisan retailers in main streets and town centres nationwide by levelling the playing field to a degree from a competitive perspective.
“Independent family-owned shops in Ireland employ 90,000 people and contribute €3.5 billion to the national Exchequer,” he said.
“A total of 75% of what they sell is produced in Ireland or sold through Irish suppliers.
The money people spend in these shops stays in local communities and more initiatives like this Bill are needed to protect that particular part of the market.”
One must wait for the new valuation system to be implemented and set across the country to ascertain how that Bill will make a difference between what is being charged for town centre retail shops and what is being charged for out-of-town multi-storey and multinational-type shopping arcades, he said.
“In addition, we must ensure that where greater amounts of money are collected on a pro rata basis from the shopping centres, which I am led to believe will happen on foot of this Bill, this generated money is used by the local authorities to provide incentives to give a better opportunity and a better chance to retailers in town centres.”
Unrest in local
There is a lot of unrest in local authority areas regarding possible redundancies arising from the establishment of Irish Water, Cashel Fianna Fáil Senator Labhrás O’Murchú told the special Joint Oireachtas meeting of the Committee on the Environment, Culture & the Gaeltacht.
In his presentation, Senator O’Murchú said the CEO of Irish Water, John Tierney had outlined that there would be no compulsory redundancies.
“Was this matter discussed during the engagement with 34 local authorities because I take it that redundancies could be a matter for local authorities rather than Uisce Éireann?” he asked.
“It would be helpful to have that matter clarified. While the assets being transferred, whether they are worth €11 billion as put forward by the local authorities or whatever figure is brought forward subsequently,
I understand pension liabilities will not pass from the local authorities to Uisce Éireann.
In the discussions which have taken place in the Oireachtas on that matter it would seem as if the assets were being taken from the local authorities - €11 billion would be very substantial - but liabilities relating to pensions would remain with the local authorities.”
In response Mr Tierney said he had confirmed that the model does not allow for compulsory redundancies.
“There is protection from the Labour Relations Commission, LRC, in respect of negotiations held earlier in the year,” he said.
“This is reaffirmed in the service level agreement. Pension liabilities are dealt with in legislation. The preserved piece is not the responsibility of local authorities. Under the legislation, it is the responsibility of the State. The new piece is the responsibility of Irish Water.”
Rural transport completely upgraded
Rural transport services have been completely upgraded, Minister of State for Transport Alan Kelly told the Dáil.
Replying to questions from the Opposition, he said an entire new structure is in the process of being delivered which will further integrate public transport services.
“The previous Administration wanted to get rid of them under the McCarthy report,” he said.
“Previously, rural transport services were not joined up with other public transport services.
That issue is being addressed. For the first time, the school bus service is being integrated with public transport services. School buses travel in and out of towns and through villages and previously could not pick up anyone on the way back, even though fuel was being used and people were paid. A recent change means that they are now allowed to pick up other passengers.”
The first service to be provided is in Waterford and a new rural hackney licence commenced recently. “I urge every Deputy to promote it because it is something that has universally been welcomed,” he said. “Much work has gone into co-ordinating the services. It takes time, but I made a commitment to do it.”
However, Independent Deputy Mick Wallace said by international standards, public transport services are weak, while rail services have been allowed to disintegrate.
“If one lives in the countryside, the bus service leaves too much to be desired,” he said. “Most people have to have a car in order to get from A to B. Rather than follow in the footsteps of other Governments, would the responsible Ministers not be tempted to leave their mark and do something serious in terms of investing in public transport in a major way.”