Support for Labour's plan to cut small business rates
The body for Northern Ireland's independent retailers has welcomed the pledge by Labour leader Ed Miliband to reduce business rates for small businesses if they are elected in 2015.
Around one-and-a-half million small businesses would save £450-a-year if the policy is introduced. It would be funded by not going ahead with a corporation tax cut for 80,000 large UK businesses.
Mr Miliband told his party conference in Brighton he wanted to claim the mantle of "the party of small business" for Labour, and pledged that if he wins power, his first act will be to reverse a hike in small business rates due in April 2015 and to freeze the levy the following year.
Mr Miliband said: "Most of the jobs of the future are going to be created in a large number of small businesses, not a small number of large businesses. And most of the new jobs that British people will be doing in 15 years time will be in new companies.
"That's why we have to support our small businesses, the vibrant, dynamic businesses that will create wealth in Britain."
Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association chief executive Glyn Roberts said the Northern Ireland Executive would be given additional funding to implement the rates reduction.
"Given that we have nearly one in four shops empty in Northern Ireland this is a very welcome pledge by the Labour leader which we strongly support," he said.
"Such a reduction could build upon the successful Small Business Rate Relief Scheme in Northern Ireland to support local traders who struggle to pay their rates bills.
"That being said, we do have reservations about this cut being funded by removing the proposed Corporation Tax reduction."
Institute of Directors director general Simon Walker warned that it was "a dangerous move for Labour to risk our business-friendly environment" by raising corporation tax, while John Longworth of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said: "Labour must realise that you can't rob Peter to pay Paul.