Belfast Telegraph

Port levy and rates review plan gets broad welcome

By Clare Weir

Business leaders have welcomed elements of the Finance Minister's budget statement and the potential implications on business here.

The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) has backed proposals for the Department for Regional Development to pursue the levying of Belfast Port, while a DUP assembly member has said that a rebalancing of rates will assist small businesses.

ICE Northern Ireland director Wendy Blundell said that the reduction in the capital spend can be offset by the port's potential to fund projects such as the York Street interchange, but urged more joined-up thinking.

"The Port of Belfast benefits directly from such infrastructure projects and we believe that their contribution to infrastructure investment is an equitable arrangement," she said.

"While ICE NI is satisfied with the progress that is being made in getting the budget to this stage, we express concern that the Executive is not speaking with one voice on the process. A collegiate approach is necessary on a range of cross cutting issues and ICE NI would ask that consensus is established between all of the Executive departments where possible."

Meanwhile DUP assembly member for East Antrim, Alastair Ross has welcomed the announcement from the minister Sammy Wilson of local government's intention to rebalance the rates system to benefit small firms.

"Mr Wilson announced that the small business rates relief system was to be extended effectively doubling the current provision of rates relief," he said.

"In these difficult economic times, small businesses have suffered with many barely keeping their heads above water.

"The net result of the minister's announcement will have a hugely positive impact on many small towns and villages."