Belfast Telegraph

Sammy means business, let's hope it works

The administration at Stormont has often been criticised for not making decisions to help the local economy and to improve the quality of life in Northern Ireland.

However, the Finance Minister Sammy Wilson and his senior colleagues have shown that they mean business by imposing a levy on large stores in the province.

The imposition of a 15% levy on 76 large stores will raise £5m in revenue, and the money will be used to cut rates for smaller traders.

Mr Wilson says that he is not acting like a Robin Hood in taking from the rich to help the poor and claims that he has produced a balanced policy, but time will tell whether he is right or not.

Certainly the minister should be applauded for taking a controversial decision and for refusing to bow to the large stores which strongly oppose the levy.

It is also clear that drastic measures need to be taken to help struggling retailers in small town centres, but the new initiative does seem to be a blunt weapon.

Not all smaller traders are doing badly, and some larger stores are feeling the pinch. To add to the uncertainty, it should be recognised that the £5m in new revenue is not a large sum, which may have to be spread thinly as a relief to a large number of smaller traders.

Significantly, the big worry now is the symbolism which is created by the new levy.

It sends out a signal that larger stores are not immune from government intervention, and this might deter new businesses from locating in the province, while making those established here much more uneasy about their vulnerability to new taxes.

Nevertheless Stormont deserves some credit for pressing ahead with a radical new measure, and sometimes the fact that an administration is seen to be doing something is encouraging in itself.

However everything depends on whether new measures actually help a situation, and in the final analysis this initiative may not quite get the full marks that Sammy would like to see.


From Belfast Telegraph