FIANNA Fáil Councillor Eamon Quinlan launched into a strong rebuke of the behaviour of energy providers and how the Council should combat what he called “ridiculous price increases”.
Cllr Quinlan pointed to the fact that all local authorities apply commercial rates on the physical infrastructure of energy companies within their county boundaries.
For Waterford, this results in up to €5 million per year. Councillor Quinlan requested that the Council seek Ministerial approval to have a revaluation of this infrastructure so that they would have to pay more or, preferably, to separate energy providers from other rate payers. This would allow a separate, higher commercial rate to be applied by the Council on these companies in its annual budget in November.
Cllr Quinlan said of energy costs, “These prices need to be seen for what they are, a threat to the survivability of many businesses and the ability for many to keep a roof over their heads. Houses going cold for months, job losses from businesses that go to the wall or have to cut staff due to increased overheads is an existential threat to the stability of our community.
“Even the Council will take a big hit running many public buildings at a severe loss due to us having to cover the energy costs and we need to do everything in our power to ensure this doesn’t have to be covered locally.
“We apply commercial rates on all the physical infrastructure they have around County Waterford. As this infrastructure is now producing record profits, we definitely need to bring forward a revaluation on them so that we can increase the rates on them accordingly.”
Waterford City and County Council is currently applying a rates level of 0.278 on the value of properties. An increase would have the potential to release a “windfall of finances back into the county” without having to look to the public to make up any deficit.
The calls from the public for the Government to take strong action on a package of reliefs for both domestic and small commercial operators has been deafening, with the Government signalling their willingness to provide rebates to the public from a windfall take on companies, he said.
Preferably, he said a cap on electricity bills is needed to make sure the ordinary person doesn’t get fleeced.
“We in the Council can help take the lead here by stinging these companies for higher rates. If we get the go ahead from the Government, we can take energy providers at a higher level through our rates system and then through our rates system again, use the money we take in to offer rates relief to small and medium sized businesses. If we took in enough we could then lower the local property tax or reduce rents,” said Cllr Quinlan.
Waterford City and County Council will begin the deliberations around the local property tax in October and the 2023 commercial rates value in November.