Over 500 small businesses in Lisburn have secured a 20% discount on their rates as a result of a controversial rate-relief scheme, Finance Minister Sammy Wilson has said.
The minister was speaking during a visit to Lisburn, where he met a businessman who has availed of a separate relief for those who take on premises which have previously lain vacant. Mr Wilson said the small business rate relief scheme - dubbed the Tesco Tax as it imposes a levy on large retail businesses which is then redistributed - had given 564 small firms in Lisburn a 20% rates discount.
That discount was worth £375,000 or around £663 for each business, the minister said. He also congratulated Stitch and Zip owner Desmond Storey, who already has a dry cleaners, on the opening of his new business.
The empty property relief allows a 50% relief on rates where a property which has been empty for 12 months or more becomes occupied in 2012 or 2013.
Mr Wilson said: "The new business will complement his existing dry cleaning business and I am sure the 50% concession will be of great help to Mr Storey in the first year of his new venture. The empty retail premises relief is unique in the UK and is helping to revitalise our town centres as well as creating much needed employment during these difficult economic times."
He also called on traders to respond to a review of the small business rate relief scheme, which is currently being carried out by his department.
The review closes on October 5.