Revamped service station in Cahir sees four-fold jump in rates

‘If everyone else was being assessed on turnover I wouldn’t mind – they are not giving us a level playing field’

Alan O’Donnell at Woodview service station  in Cahir, Co Tipperary, with his rates bill. Photograph:   John D Kelly

Alan O’Donnell at Woodview service station in Cahir, Co Tipperary, with his rates bill. Photograph: John D Kelly

 

A few weeks ago Alan O’Donnell was celebrating the revamp of his service station in Co Tipperary.

Far from the “puncture repair shop with some petrol pumps” his father had built up over the past 30 years, the station in Cahir now boasts a newly-expanded modern shop and delicatessen. It employs 54 people in the town.

He had expected a small increase in his rates with the expansion, but nothing like the more than four-fold jump from €5,000 to €21,000.

“If we had known about the hike in the rates we wouldn’t have gone with the model we went with,” he said.

They started planning the “huge investment” five years ago, building began last June, and now, weeks after completion, he is fretting about potential job losses.

“I was shocked, very disappointed, disillusioned I suppose,” he said on learning of his new rates bill. “The way we feel is that the harder we work, the more rates we have to pay.

“Basically, we feel we are being victimised. We have no problem paying rates, but we want to pay a reasonable amount of rates. They were probably on the slight side before, there’s no doubt about that, but if they had doubled we would have agreed to that.”

Square footage

Mr O’Donnell said shops down the road from him – “the SuperValus, the Aldis, the Lidls” – are all being billed on the basis of their square footage.

“That means their rates have not increased. But mine have gone up by more than 400 per cent. If everyone else was being assessed on turnover I wouldn’t mind – they are not giving us a level playing field.”

Mr O’Donnell says he will have to consider getting rid of his high-value, low-margin products – that includes the forecourt fuel, cigarettes and the Lotto. “I can do that. But that will come at a cost of between 10 and 15 jobs here.”

Mr O’Donnell said he has spoken to a service station owner in another town who “will hand back the keys” of his leased forecourt if forced to pay the new rates.