Calls to Suspend Sandwich Board Charges

Eoghan Dalton Reports
A FIANNA Fáil Councillor has called for sandwich board charges to be suspended to allow the local authority to redraw the criteria for the advertising. The Council has written to over 120 businesses in the city centre in recent weeks, telling them to remove their boarding. They will be allowed to display any permanent signs again once they pay €630. At a recent Metropolitan District meeting, Councillors were told that just two out of 124 businesses had made contact with the Council since receiving letters. Some business owners have threatened to stop paying their rates if the council proceeds with the charge for each board.

Cllr Eamon Quinlan maintains the charge is too much for small businesses: “Sandwich boards are predominately used by small, locally owned and operated businesses and most small premises in the City face commercial rates of approximately €2,500 to the local authority. Therefore, small businesses are faced with a tax equivalent to a 25% increase in their rates, causing distress to sole traders who are only barely keeping their heads above water.”

He continued, saying that as Waterford is a thousand-year-old city with numerous laneway and side streets, the boards are crucial to raising awareness “that they actually exist to both locals and tourists”. Cllr Quinlan added that thanks to its crackdown on advertising, the Council has in “one fell swoop almost brought crashing down” the smaller employers in the city centre. He went on, telling the room that the current criteria is too subjective and can depend on the “whim” of the enforcing Council staff.
Director of Services Fergus Galvin told the Councillor the Council is “open to listening” to businesses put forward their case for the signage, while dismissing any need to revisit the guidelines. He said: “Our primary concern was removing what had become, in some areas, where these were out on footpaths blocking access, they were substantially narrowing the width and becoming a nuisance in some areas. Particularly during wintry or stormy weather they ended up being blown all over the place. In some cases, they were poorly constructed and poorly presented. The big difficulty was the rapid growth of them in a relatively small space.”

Speaking since, Cllr Quinlan said businesses in the city centre have garnered the impression that the Council is now “caught up with large projects” to the detriment of small and medium businesses.

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