Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Doherty holds constructive meeting with retail reps on problems facing the sector

Fine Gael Meath East, Regina Doherty, has described as very constructive a meeting she held with representatives from retail sector in her constituency office in Ashbourne earlier today (Friday). The meeting was attended by the President of the National Federation of Retail Newsagent in Ireland, Joe Sweeney, and Kathryn Fanning, proprietor of Easons in Ashbourne and member of the Ashbourne Retail Association.

“I am acutely aware of the challenges facing businesses in Ashbourne, and I was delighted to meet with Joe and Kathryn today to get their perspective on what needs to be done to help businesses keep their heads above water. The two most significant issues raised today were the illicit tobacco trade and the on-going problems with retail rates.

“Joe Sweeney pointed out that while we have eight ports in this country, we have only two port scanners, used to detect illegal cigarettes. Clearly, this is less than desirable. The Programme for Government includes a commitment to provide x-ray scanners at major ports to combat the drugs trade. These machines could of course also be used to detect counterfeit cigarettes, and I intend to raise this issue with the Minister for Justice to see what progress is being made.

“The illicit tobacco trade costs the State hundreds of millions of euro every year, and it is putting our retailers under unnecessary additional pressure. I think it may be worth considering setting up a special Garda taskforce to crack down on the trade, and reduce its impact on both the exchequer finances and local retailers.

“On the issue of rates, a proposal was raised for the Government to introduce legislation similar to the ‘Tesco Tax’ in Northern Ireland. In the North, retailers with a rateable value of more than £500,000 must pay an additional 8.52% levy, and the extra revenue generated is used to reduce rates for smaller retailers. As a result, more than 24,000 small businesses have had their rates cut by an average of £735.

“I have given a commitment to raise this issue with the Minister for Finance to see how many retailers could benefit from a similar measure here, and how much would be yielded.

“Tens of thousands of jobs have been lost in the retail sector in the last five years, and the sector remains under considerable pressure. It is important that we listen to the views of the sector as we come up with new ways to maintain existing staff and give businesses the potential to expand and create jobs.”

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