Cllr Michael Murphy, Cathaoirleach of Tipperary County Council
"The recovery process will take much longer than three months and while the measures introduced are very welcome, they need to be enhanced and increased in due course." - Cllr Michael Murphy
The Cathaoirleach of Tipperary County Council, Cllr Michael Murphy has this week welcomed as “a step in the right direction” the measures introduced by the government to support local authorities in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, the Fine Gael party member says that the measures do not go far enough with most local authorities trying to support struggling businesses which will be in dire need of help until at least Christmas.
“Once again, can I acknowledge our incredible front line essential workers, and our front line heroes. But, we must also pass the baton to those who must rebuild Ireland, our workers, our employers, SME's and many family owned businesses, many of whom hire local, buy local and invest local. Such employers who survive this pandemic risk being killed in the recovery if they are saddled with unsustainable liabilities.
“Schemes that offer SME's more debt, no matter how low the interest rate, can only offer temporary respite. The key is finding a way of getting cash, not debt, to those sustainable businesses quickly in order to drive a recovery.
“In this context, rates need to be set aside for the duration of this unprecedented pandemic - three months is too short, in my opinion and the Department of Finance needs to provide urgent direct funding for local authorities in the meantime.
“I welcome the measures announced by the government as a step in the right direction but we have to come with other ways of supporting businesses also. For instance, reductions in the VAT rate for retail and the hospitality industry would be a big help and would have the affect of putting cash into the pockets of businesspeople and allowing them to re-invest and help their business to survive. We need to start thinking this way and we need to keep the measures going for much longer than just three months,” Cllr Murphy said.
The Government has signed off on a series of new supports to help businesses to re-open as Covid-19 restrictions are slowly lifted.
These measures include a waiver on commercial rates for firms that have been forced to close for three months, beginning March 27.
There will also be new arrangements to help firms deal with accumulated tax liabilities. Revenue will warehouse these debts at a 0%interest rates for a period of 12 months after trading recommences. During that year there will be no debt enforcement action taken.
There will also be a new Restart Fund, worth €250m, to assist micro and small businesses through grants.
The funding on offer will be linked to what was paid by each firm in commercial rates last year and will be capped at €10,000.
Calls from business groups for a loan guarantee scheme for SMEs have also been heard, with a €2bn credit guarantee scheme due to be set up. Loans will range from €10,000 to €1,000,000 and be 80% guaranteed. Terms will be between 3 months and 6 years, and interest rates will be below market rates.
An additional €2 billion Pandemic Stabilisation and Recovery Fund will also be established under the auspices of the Irish Strategic Investment Fund.
It will offer capital larger businesses on commercial terms.
“These are all very important and will help to get businesses moving again once things return to some kind of normality. But, I still feel that there is more than can be done and we must find the ways to do more and to help our businesses and ultimately our local economies.
“Tipperary County Council has been very pro-active and will continue to be, but there will need to be more help from central government as well. The recovery process will take much longer than three months and while the measures introduced are very welcome, they need to be enhanced and increased in due course,” Cllr Murphy told The Tipperary Star this week.