Peadar Toibin... Govt locked into upward-only rent reviews.
The government is wasting around €200,000 a year in Meath because it is locked into controversial upward-only rent reviews.
Figures obtained by the Meath Chronicle show that, of the six contracts the government is locked into in the county, four of them are upward-only agreements.
The Office of Public Works' (OPW) figures, which were revealed to Navan TD Peadar Toibín, after he submitted a parliamentary question in the Dail, show that the government pays a total of €1,925,126 a year in rent to six landlords, of which €1,818,981 is locked into four upward-only contracts.
The four premises are the Navan Social Welfare Office, which costs €230,000 a year; the Government Offices at Kilcarn, €573,700; Athlumney House, for €439,921, and the Revenue Commissioners offices at Abbey Mall, which are rented for €575,360.
"It was in the Programme for Government that the State would get rid of the upward-only rent reviews which have closed down businesses in Meath and around the country, and now here they are locked into the exact contract that has cost 50,000 jobs in the retail sector alone," said the Sinn Fein TD.
"Nationally, it looks like they are paying around €10 million over the odds; relating to Meath, where there have been so many retailers struggling and closing, it's around €200,000.
"For these businesses, the upward-only rent agreement could be the difference between survival and non-survival," Deputy Tóibín claimed.
"The arrangement shouldn't have existed in the first place when you see retailers struggling in Meath, you can see that being locked into one of these contracts in the long-term is costing jobs, it's costing the country competitiveness and it's to the State's disadvantage. For some businesses, it's life or death," he added.
"There have been loads of business closures in the county, and there'll be more in January. It's time to get rid of this situation, especially when you consider the rental value compared to the property value has altered enormously in the past few years and businesses are being screwed," said the Sinn Féin TD.
Navan Chamber of Commerce president William O'Reilly said that the situation "was a product of the times gone by".
He said: "The upward-only rent reviews don't take into account the economic climate and doesn't reflect the people trying to do business in this climate.
"On the flip side, if you are a landlord, who wants to, naturally, lock someone into a long-term contract, if you stick to your guns, you could be pricing yourself out of the market or your tenant out of business."
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said an announcement clarifying matters will be made "soon".
"Consideration of this matter is ongoing in the context of recent advices received from the Attorney General in relation to proposals which had been forwarded to her earlier this year.
"The minister hopes to shortly be in a position to provide some additional clarity in relation to this and hopes to make a statement on the issue soon," the spokesperson said.
A request for information on the length of the leases was yesterday (Tuesday) submitted to the OPW but, at the time of going to press, the information was not available.