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Push to have local business rates cut will be sidelined by general election, says Wilson


Sammy Wilson

An inquiry into high business rates here will be stalled by an election and continued lack of devolved government, DUP MP Sammy Wilson has said.

The MP, who was appealing to the chairman of the NI Affairs Committee to consider an inquiry into why business rates here remain consistently higher than elsewhere in the UK, said the committee was forthcoming but recent political events could put the case on the back-burner.

"He indicated that he would be prepared to consider this but with Parliament closing for a general election I suspect there will be no prospect of a decision being made until after the election," said Mr Wilson.

"Obviously one of the things they should look at is introducing the same arrangements as pertain in GB. I understand that we received the money to do so but it was allocated to other parts of the budget."

His comments come after the Belfast Telegraph reported on two Larne businessmen's bid to push for an inquiry into the Department of Finance's (DoF) Review of Business Rates.

Tom McMullan and Paul McMullen have compiled their own research which has been presented by Mr Wilson to the NI Affairs Committee.

Mr Wilson added: "Even if the committee were to do a report and make recommendations, without direct rule it is unlikely that we can get change because Sinn Fein are determined to block the appointment of ministers in the Assembly."

A spokesperson for the DoF said the recent publication of its Review of Business Rates sets out to attract comment and discussion. He said: "The Review of Business Rates is about ensuring our business rates system is effective and fair while raising the funds needed to support public services.

"The consultation is seeking opinions and ideas that generate solutions which will help create a rating system which is fit for purpose and delivers for all. It is asking for views on a number of areas including whether the current system recognises ability to pay.

"The department has engaged with a wide range of stakeholders including elected members, councils, chambers of commerce, trade bodies and business ratepayers during the consultation period and would encourage all interested parties to engage with us and formally respond before the consultation closes on November 11."

The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) is also calling on MPs to reduce business rates here paid by its member pubs, chair of Camra NI Ruth Sloan said: "It is clear that the rising cost of business rates, coupled with other rising costs and outdated licensing laws, are contributing to pub closures and people choosing to leave the industry.

"Whilst pubs in Great Britain are receiving more help with rates, it isn't fair that costs continue to rise for pubs here."

Mr Wilson added: "There really is a need to detach rates from the notional rental value of a property and have them linked to the ability of a business to pay based on profits made.

"That's probably more long-term, but the present rates system has destroyed town centres and is not sustainable."

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