Belfast Telegraph

Major review of Northern Ireland business rates announced

(Dominic Lipinski/PA)
(Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Business rates in Northern Ireland are to be reviewed by government in a bid to bring the system up to date, it was announced today.

The Department of Finance announced it would carry out a “full and comprehensive” review of the rates paid by businesses including pubs and shops.

But it warned that without ministers in government in Northern Ireland, the changes it could introduce were limited.

Lobby groups like Retail NI, the NI Retail Consortium and Hospitality NI have carried out a lengthy campaign calling for a review of the rates system.

Bricks and mortar shops say that the viability of their businesses is undermined by big rates bills while their biggest competitors online do not face the same overheads.

Sue Gray, Permanent Secretary at the Department of Finance, said: “In recent years significant changes have taken place in our high streets and town centres. It is critical from a business perspective, as well as a government funding perspective, that our rating system is capable of responding to this wider process of change. That’s why today I am announcing a full and comprehensive review of business rates.

“We must create a rating system which generates the funding our public services need while supporting businesses in all sector and enabling economic growth right across Northern Ireland.”

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She said that without ministers, there were limits to the policy changes which can be carried out by civil servants.

But she added that “we need to be ready with updated advice for incoming Ministers for their return to office” . “This fundamental review is therefore a critical part of this process.”

Retail NI and Hospitality NI welcomed the announcement of the review.

“While this is not an end in itself, it is a means to an end,” their chief executives said. “This review provides us with a roadmap for radical change to an antiquated and not fit for purpose system of business rates which is a major burden for our members.”

Roger Pollen, head of external affairs at the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “We very much welcome this review. Rates are a disproportionate burden on smaller businesses and restrict their ability to invest, grow and create jobs.

“A significantly higher proportion of small businesses in Great Britain are exempt from rates compared to their counterparts in Northern Ireland, and the benefit of enhanced rates relief announced by the Chancellor at the last budget was not passed on to firms here.”

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