‘Radical reduction of rates needed to support town centres’

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Three leading business organisations are urging councils not to increase rates in town centres as they consider next year’s budget.

Retail NI, Hospitality Ulster and Manufacturing NI have urged Northern Ireland’s 11 local councils not to increase business rates.

A spokesperson for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council said: “Our approach is always to strike a fair balance between keeping rates as low as possible, boosting inward investment and promoting tourism across the borough.

“A revaluation of rates was undertaken and implemented in 2015 and these rates were considered to be more reflective of current rental values.

“In addition, elected members requested central government undertake more regular valuations as some rates were previously based on 2001 rental market and economic conditions, which did not reflect economic conditions currently. Land and Property Services (LPS) are currently reviewing rates again for 2020 revaluation.”

A spokesperson for Antrim and Borough Council commented: “The council’s budgetary requirements are currently under consideration for 2019/20. Both rates for domestic and non-domestic properties will be set in February 2019.

“The biggest proportion of rates, the Regional Rate, will be set in March 2019 by the Northern Ireland Executive, or in their absence, through Westminster.”

In a joint statement, the chief executives of Retail NI, Hospitality Ulster and Manufacturing NI, Glyn Roberts, Colin Neill and Stephen Kelly said: “As the councils begin the process of setting the level of business rates, we urge them not to increase rates at all and strike a 0% increase.

“With our members experiencing huge uncertainty with Brexit, rising costs of running their business and slow economic growth, the last thing they need is to pay more business rates.

“Councils should not add to the burden of our members and we urge them to consider our call when they begin the process of setting their non-domestic rates.

“Our three organisations recognise that our eleven councils are key players in economic development and we want to strengthen our relationship with them going forward.

“Last week’s Budget gave independent retailers and hospitality businesses in England a third off their rate bills. Their counterparts in Northern Ireland got nothing.

“Rates reform is absolutely critical to the future of the economy. In our joint New Deal document, we call for a radical reduction in business rates to support our town and city centres and to ensure small business owners can reinvest more of their own money into growing their business and employing more staff.”