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Rates holiday plea to help Northern Ireland businesses survive coronavirus downturn


Letter: Simon Hamilton

Letter: Simon Hamilton

Letter: Simon Hamilton

Sixteen chambers of commerce and business groups in Northern Ireland have signed a joint letter to Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill calling for a "100% rates holiday" and other measures to help traders cope with the downturn caused by coronavirus.

In last week's Budget Chancellor Rishi Sunak scrapped business rates for thousands of small businesses in England over the next year, while a discount that pubs receive on their rates will increase from £1,000 to £5,000.

He also pledged a £3,000 cash grant for any firm eligible for the small business rates relief.

Stormont Finance Minister Conor Murphy has said it would cost an extra £200m for Stormont to implement a business rates holiday here.

However, business leaders have joined forces to call for a similar package of measures locally to help businesses survive the pandemic and save jobs. One of the signatories is Belfast Chamber chief executive Simon Hamilton, a former DUP Finance Minister.

He said the letter "sends a clear and unambiguous signal to the Executive at Stormont that in order for our economy to come through the short-term shock that the Covid-19 outbreak will cause, we need a package of support to assist firms in all sectors to ensure that people's jobs can be protected, and that when this situation is over our economy can rebound.

"Business is pulling together at this time of great difficulty and our plea to the Executive is to join with us and offer businesses across the region the support they need," he said.

Other signatories include presidents of chambers of commerce in Londonderry, Ballymena, Newry, Lisburn, Banbridge, Bangor, the Causeway coast, Newtownards, Omagh, Holywood, and Portadown.

"Retail NI, Manufacturing NI, the Federation of Small Businesses and Hospitality Ulster have also signed.

Retail NI chief Glyn Roberts said: "What we seek is support from the Executive similar to that being introduced in England and Scotland, which is the 100% rates holiday for small businesses. This relief is crucial so that when we have dealt with this major public health problem there are jobs for people to return to."

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