Belfast Telegraph

Businessmen in call for inquiry into ‘simply unsustainable’ rates

Sammy Wilson
Sammy Wilson
Emma Deighan

By Emma Deighan

Two local businessmen have urged the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee to launch an inquiry into business rates.

Tom McMullan and Paul McMullen, who operate separate businesses in Larne, are working with DUP MP Sammy Wilson to push for the probe.

They decided to take action after the Department of Finance (DoF) consultation on rates in September, which they described as “poor quality”, “misleading” and “grossly inadequate”.

They put together a report on the issue which claims rates here are three times higher than London, with 122 traders in Larne paying £785,000 annually.

Mr McMullan said: “High business rates are the reason that we have the highest vacancies of anywhere in UK, the highest level of poundage and the lowest level of small business rate support.

“That combination is responsible for businesses closing.

“We’ve been in Larne for 25 years and have seen quite a number (of businesses) closing. It’s simply unsustainable.”

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Mr McMullen slammed the DoF’s recent consultation on businesses rates.

“Anyone who was expecting a full and comprehensive analysis by the DoF of the challenges being faced by the business sector to inform its consultation will have been sadly disappointed,” he said.

Speaking about his own research, Mr McMullan said: “It shows that the consistent failure over the last three years to apply improvements in the small business rates support environment, applicable in other areas of the UK, to Northern Ireland has resulted in additional costs of up to £121m falling on the small business sector.

“We need the NI Affairs Select Committee to launch an independent investigation.

“Secondly, we need leaders to start passing through Barnett consequentials, as it is in England, which they haven’t been doing. We would also like to see small business rates relief overseen by an independent body.”

A Deparment of Finance spokesperson said it launched the public consultation on September 16. “The terms of reference for the review provide a breakdown of the £237.5m reliefs and exemptions which are currently in operation,” they added.

“As outlined some £96.2m of this overall figure is for all properties which are exempt, which includes the example provided of charities.

“The department is encouraging all interested parties to engage with us and put forward their ideas and opinions before the consultation closes on November 11.”

Belfast Telegraph