Retail NI has joined Finance Minister Conor Murphy at Two Sisters artisan food and craft store in Belfast today to launch a new £50m business rates package.
The Minister had hoped to freeze rates for three years. However, with Northern Ireland’s 2022-2025 Budget yet to be approved following the collapse of Stormont, he has secured Assembly backing for a one-year freeze of domestic and non-domestic regional rates.
Retailers such as Two Sisters will receive a three-month extension to the rates holiday introduced during the pandemic, alongside hospitality, tourism, leisure, childcare, newspapers and airports. All businesses will receive a one-month rates holiday with the exception of utilities and larger food stores.
“This is a very welcome package of support for our members and the broader business community,” said Glyn Roberts, chief executive, Retail NI. “We appreciate that the Minister has listened and acted upon the concerns of our members.
“Continuing the rates holiday by another three months and extending the Small Business Rate Relief scheme will be well received by small traders, particularly given the twin pressures of rising energy costs and the forthcoming National Insurance hike.
“After the Election, it is important that the Assembly and Executive agree a broader reform of the entire system of business rates as they are the highest in the UK.
“This package is a significant step in the right direction but much more will be needed to support the recovery of our high streets.”
Murphy said: “Over recent months I have visited businesses from all sectors across the North. The common message coming from these businesses has been that the rates holiday was a vital lifeline for them during the pandemic.
“As businesses continue to rebuild, I am announcing a further £50m rates support package to support the recovery. This will provide all businesses with a one-month rates holiday, with the exception of utilities and larger food stores, while retail, hospitality, tourism, leisure, childcare, newspapers and airports will receive a three-month rates holiday.
“Businesses in these hardest hit sectors have paid no rates since March 2020 and will now pay no rates until July 2022.
“While it’s not possible to finalise the 2022-2025 Budget, businesses need certainty and to be able to plan ahead. These vital measures build on the around £1bn support my department has provided through rates relief and Covid grants and will give businesses time to recover.”