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Tory criticism on levy unjust and founded

The wild claims from Irwin Armstrong (Writeback 5 April, 2012) about the large retail levy are nothing less than we would expect from the Tories. Whilst parties such as the DUP are working to promote Northern Ireland and attract investment, all the local Tories have to offer are attempts to talk down our economy.

Mr Armstrong may focus on a few large companies when he talks about the large retail levy, but he completely ignores the fact that, as a result, 8,300 businesses across the province will have directly benefitted with a total of £6m assistance.

Only yesterday, I was approached by a retailer who outlined what benefit the average £700 assistance would have for businesses such as his.

Those are exactly the kind of businesses who have been forced to shut their doors in high streets right across Northern Ireland.

It is understandable that large retailers do not want to pay more, but in the last few days Waitrose have announced their plans to invest in Northern Ireland and its chief executive stated that the retail levy has had no impact upon that decision.

Other large retailers also still have planning applications within the system indicating their own continued desire to expand which obviously is not affected by a three-year temporary rates levy.

The facts are that, whilst all businesses have been affected by the current economic climate, large retailers have been less affected than their smaller counterparts, and when we emerge from this recession it remains that there will be more large retailer businesses in Northern Ireland while the number of small retailers will have decreased.

SIMON HAMILTON

STRANGFORD DUP MLA

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