Work towards reducing rates and utilising empty business units
Commercial rates have been a crushing tool to many businesses trying to start up or to get back on their feet in recent years. The subsequent empty business units lining so many towns and villages are equally crushing tools to communities. We are desperately in need of a dual strategy approach to both of these issues.
This is not a problem which besets only Ireland. Many approaches have been taken in diverse communities around the world to alleviate these issues. We are not reinventing the wheel here, but we do need to think outside the box. Under recent legislation, local authorities will have new discretionary powers with rates. This is a great opportunity for overhaul of the rates valuation system and instigating initiatives to encourage new business.
At the same time, local authorities can assist in alleviating the blight of vacant units. Often, community uses could bring life to such spaces, even in just the short term. Perhaps with favourable conditions, the self-employed working out of home might be encouraged to occupy a vacant unit.
So many initiatives that could assist the reoccupation of vacant units are possible. With a little courage and imagination, many of these initiatives could be explored and tested. The potential value to the commercial and social life of our communities could be immense.