KILDARE County Council has agreed by a majority to ask the Government to define stable yards as agricultural rather than as leisure for rateable valuation.
Cllr Morgan McCabe, who proposed the motion, said that the new designation had increased rates excessively and would have a detrimental effect on jobs and the racing industry.
Cllr McCabe, conscious that he was speaking at the start of Punchestown week, said he could see how a race track could be considered a leisure area for rates purposes by the Valuation Office but stables yards, which varied in size and turnover were different.
He cited cases where the rate bill would rise from €1,400 to €17,000 and from €2,500 to €29,000.
Cllr McCabe said the racing industry was labour intensive,employing one person for every two horses, compared to agriculture which had one for every 200 cattle.
He said other EU countries linked valuations to profits.
Cllr McCabe said the new valuations would be set for ten years, which he described as “lazy governance.”
Mayor Ivan Keatley said the rise in some estimates seemed to be “absolutely colossal.”
The Mayor said he has met officials from the Valuation Office and “even they had raised their eyebrows about these rises.”
At this point, Cllr Ide Cussen asked if members had declared any conflict of interests, and following some responses, Cllr Fiona McLoughlin Healy said there was disdain show to the query and some “jocularity.”
Mayor Keatley said it was up to councillors to declare that adding that he was related to a horse trainer.
Cllr McCabe said he had no pecuniary interest in racing.
Cllr Martin Miley said 25% of Irish horse trainers lived in Kildare.
Wishing trainer, Jessica Harrington the best on her successes he said a hay shed had been rated at €4,000.
Cllr Sean Power said he was a brother in law of horse trainer, Peter McCreery, and did volunteer unpaid work as a steward.
Cllr Bernard Caldwell said his son had a trainers licence and he was involved in the Stable Lads association. He said a significant number of trainers were closing doors and over the next few weeks he expected more closures to be announced.
Cllr Brendan Young said horse racing was generally a special activity for rich owners, “the sport of kings.”
Cllr Caldwell interrupted him to say that there were more jobs at risk.
Cllr Young said there were jobs as risk in all sorts of industries.
Cllr Young said if rates were based on turnover or profit it would be fairer. I would prefer that to re categorising, he said. “I don’t favour putting people out of work.”
Cllr Fiona McLoughlin Healy said that clarity was needed from the Valuation Office. “Are there sampling difficulties,” she asked.
She said she was disappointed at the “disdain” show to those who raised the conflict of interest question. There was, she said, an element of “jocularity,” over that. Mayor Keatley said: “I don’t know what jocularity is.”
The Council agreed, by a majority, to send the Minister for Agriculture and the Minister for Housing on the motion.