Dear Members and Stakeholders,

In the autumn of 2019, the Department of Finance undertook a full and comprehensive review of business rates in Northern Ireland.

An eight-week public consultation process began on 18 September 2019 and continued to 11 November 2019 and Newry BID engaged in seeking a fairer Business Rates system including a review of the NI-specific reliefs for manufacturing and agriculture that do not apply in GB.

The BID highlighted the view of the Head of Land and Property Services to BID members in Newry that NI Business Rates were the highest in the world relative to rents and that high business rates were the primary cause of High Street vacancies.

The resultant report was scheduled for publication in Spring 2020, as noted in the Terms of Reference, but was paused due to the outbreak of the pandemic, and the decision from the Executive to respond with Covid-19 support delivered through the rating system. It was apparent to the Department and the Minister that the pandemic fundamentally changed the context in which the review had originally been undertaken.

Given the amount of work that stakeholders put into the process, as well as the residual value the process has in informing Departmental policy thinking in the medium to long term, the Department has now published the factual report originally prepared back in 2020.

All consultation documentation including the Terms of Reference and the recently published report is on the Department’s website.

Business Rates Public Consultation | Department of Finance (finance-ni.gov.uk)

The key question is what happens next…

Rates are a devolved issue making up approximately 10% of the Stormont Budget and effectively the only element that is controlled locally outside of the Block Grant.

We continue to lobby our local representatives for rates reform to provide a fairer Business Rates system.

Over and above this Newry BID was part of a delegation from British BIDs that has engaged with the Labour Party at Westminster and we are delighted to report that they are committing to abolishing Business Rates and replacing them with a broader, less property-centric, business tax.

There is much work still to be done on the detail but the alternative will see a new online sales tax and likely changes to VAT and NIC.

We would welcome your views so that we can feed them in to help shape the proposed alternative.

Please contact eamonn@newry.com should you have anything you want to feedback on.

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