A PROPOSAL to abolish rates for crèches and other childcare centres has been passed by Laois county councillors.
The problem is that rates are set by the national valuation office, not by county councils, so the proposal must be forwarded to the government for consideration.
According to a council official, 21 crèches pay rates in Laois and only one crèche is exempt from rates payment.
Cllr Aisling Moran proposed the rates removal at the latest monthly council meeting in county hall, where she said something must be done to reduce the high cost of childcare.
The Fine Gael councillor put forward a motion “that this council proposes the removal of rates for crèches and other childcare providers”.
She said: “In this day and age, childcare is not a luxury but an essential part of living in Ireland. Parents should have access to affordable childcare but, unfortunately, due to the rising cost of rates, rent and insurance, people providing this service find it impossible to provide an affordable service.”
Cllr Moran said many parents had to take out the equivalent of a second mortgage to pay for childcare, yet people working in the childcare sector were not well paid. She said: “What they are earning isn’t what it’s costing to provide childcare. Anyone who works in a caring profession seems to be treated badly. They don’t get paid for the work they do, in my opinion. Staff are going to college for three or four years and then getting minimum wage to do a job that’s one of the most important jobs of all, looking after the most vulnerable.”
The response from a county council official was that a crèche is regarded as a business premises and pays rates as such, with the rates determined by the national valuation office. There are some exemptions under the ECCE (Early Childhood Care and Education) programme.
Cllr Moran suggested that if rates removal were not an option, the authorities needed to look at reducing high insurance costs to make childcare more affordable.
The proposal to abolish rates was seconded by cllr Paschal McEvoy (FF), who said Ireland was nearing a situation where there would be no-one available to mind children.
The Stradbally councillor said: “The days of the woman up the road minding two or three children are nearly gone. They are still doing it, but they cannot take any more in. People are paying big mortgages and childcare was a big issue on the doorsteps for all parties during the general election. Grannies all over the country are minding children, too, and it’s not fair. We all love our grandchildren, but the government has to do something at this stage. There is almost full employment now, so there is no-one out there to mind children.”
Strongly supporting the abolition of rates for crèches, cllr McEvoy declared: “Someone has to grasp the nettle on this one and they will be richly rewarded, if they have the balls to do it.”
Independent cllr Ollie Clooney from Durrow commented that crèches looked like goldmines from the outside and only €40,000 was collected from them in rates, according to recent county figures. He said: “There is something missing here. Some investigation needs to take place, as it looks like a goldmine when you are looking in; but looking out, they are all complaining.”
The national valuation office that determines rates is an independent government office, under the aegis of the department of housing, planning and local government and staffed by civil servants. Cllr Moran’s proposal will be forwarded to the department.