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Please check facts before criticising new retail levy

I REFER to the letter from Thiepval Young headlined 'Sammy's large retail levy adds insult to injury' (Write Back, December 20). In his letter, Mr Young makes a number of assertions that I must take issue with.

I have not got my way on anything. The rating policies my department is taking forward originated from the Budget process, which was agreed by ministers. The final measures that are being adopted were shaped by the public consultation and the views of the business community.

They will lower the burden for small traders in Carrickfergus by 20% and encourage empty shops back into business, which will help arrest the decline, the opposite of what Mr Young suggests.

To put this into context, in Carrickfergus Borough Council, there are 275 businesses already benefiting from the Small Business Rates Relief Scheme, the expansion of the scheme due to the introduction of the large retail levy will mean that a further 128 will be eligible to receive rates relief from the scheme. These figures exclude multiples.

As for large retailers increasing their prices, there is no evidence that large retailers will attempt to do this when faced with a 15% levy on a rates bill over a three-year period. It averages about 0.25% of a store's sales turnover, so the effect will be minimal.

This levy has the support of a wide range of organisations. Before Mr Young puts pen to paper, he should check all the facts.

SAMMY WILSON

Finance Minister

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