Coronavirus: Dublin City Council rates down €20m in March
Retail, leisure and hospitality businesses have come to standstill during pandemic
A nearly deserted Grafton Street amid movement restrictions due to coronavirus. Photograph: Alan Betson
Rates paid to Dublin City Council have plummeted €20 million due to the decline in business during the coronavirus pandemic.
Figures from the council’s finance department indicate payments from the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors have been particularly badly hit.
Council chief executive Owen Keegan last month warned the city’s services would suffer if rates were not paid. While businesses experiencing difficulties could arrange to defer rates payments, Mr Keegan cautioned against a blanket “moratorium” on the payment of rates.
The Department of Finance said it was not yet possible to determine the impact of the pandemic on the council’s cash flow. This would be “subject to the length of time businesses remain closed or trade is restricted, the financial position of each business post Covid-19 and the economy,” it said.
However, it said “the position to date on cash flow for March 2020 compared with March 2019 would indicate that receipts for the month are down approximately €20 million”.
The Government and the County and City Management Association have agreed that local authorities should defer rates payments due from businesses most immediately affected by Covid-19 for at least three months.
“It is acknowledged that flexibility around rates deferral will have implications in terms of cash flow,” the council said.
It said the Department of Local Government had agreed to advance some payments from the Local Government Fund to help plug the gap. Funding from local property tax receipts, usually allocated in six staged payments, was also being released early to assist local authority cash flows, the council said.
“Dublin City Council will now receive a combined third and fourth instalment of [local property tax] payments within the next fortnight,” the council said.
Sinn Féin councillor Daithí Doolan, who sought the information from the Department of Finance, said the €20 million deficit would have a “huge impact” on services.
“Even when the current crisis passes, rates will continue to evaporate as businesses cope with other bills and demands. And many may not even survive this crisis,” he said.
“We need to ensure services are protected and that the public do not suffer as a result of the crash in rates. I am calling on all parties to work together and the Minister for Local Government [Eoghan Murphy] to engage with Dublin City Council to make funding available to compensate for the huge decline in funding.”