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Newry BID- Focus on Business Rates Campaign

Background:

Newry BID has led the call locally for Business Rates reform. The continuing rising cost of doing business in Newry (and other town and city centres) is set against a backdrop of lower footfall, changing shopping habits and the increase of online/out of town retail.
Many businesses in the city centre have faced a recent rates hike this year despite extreme challenges such as flooding, underinvestment in infrastructure that hinders development; Newry designated as a controlled parking zone which is subject to more on street enforcement than other areas; and the negative publicity relation to the disconnect regarding public developments in the city centre.
Our members have confirmed that further blight of vacant units is directly attributable to business rates and the recent 10.4% increase.
It is against this backdrop that Newry BID wants to shine a spotlight on the serious long-term damage being done to Newry from (that a city centre) a business rates system which disadvantages our independent / family businesses in retail, hospitality, professional services and landlords as opposed to the favourable terms given to out of town, online and manufacturing.

Problem:

Newry and other city and town centres need to change. As retail habits change we need to attract independent retailers which aren’t easily accessible online or destination stores; coupled with a range of exciting leisure and hospitality offerings. We need to set ourselves up as a city of the future where people feel encouraged to visit, spend time in a safe, welcoming and fun environment.
This cannot happen if it is too expensive for businesses to operate here with the ultimate proof of the negative impact of rates evidenced in our ever increasing vacant town and city centre buildings.
Rates is a devolved matter for Stormont and is the only significant income stream over and above the Westminster Block Grant. Rates funds approximately 70% of our local Councils income. Business rates are the substantive element of these.
The situation is exacerbated with Business Rates looking like a soft touch with Stormonts only revenue raising measure to date being a 4% Regional Rate increase and our local Council increasing rates by an above inflation 6.4% Town and city centre businesses recognise that public services need to be funded but in an environment where businesses don’t even get their bins emptied, have apparently no say in how their rates money is spent and where many of our most profitable businesses (eg manufacturing and agriculture) get significant rates relief that doesn’t apply in England, Scotland or Wales it is totally unreasonable for retail, hospitality, professional services and landlords to continue to carry a disproportionate burden that is ultimately counter-productive.

Solution:

Newry wants to drive a campaign for a root and branch rates reform system to ensure that the rates paid by city centre businesses are fair and commensurate to other areas and reflective of the change in consumer habits and trends. We also want to have more input as to how our rates money is spent.  We know that evidenced based lobbying works. We got a three year regional rate freeze from our previous campaign from the then Minister of Finance Conor Murphy. It is important we have the data to deliver this.

How:

Newry BID wants to encourage businesses to give their views initially in a survey to assess the impact the current rating system is having on business; suggesting practical ways to mitigate this; and then for some members to tell their story in a video presentation.
The Reval 26 process has already started. It is important that as well as engaging with the Newry BID campaign and you complete the Department of Finance Questionnaire.

What:

Newry BID will continue to lobby and meet with key political and civic influencers in this space to present our findings, our stories and our practical solutions. We will also bring this campaign to the attention of the media and deliver a sustained social media campaign to support it.
We will present our idea when established to other BIDs and other business groups to drive an NI wide approach to this issue. This would encourage them to follow the same research path as Newry BID has and to agree to a joint lobby.

When:

This campaign will kick off in May 2024 and will continue through to the end of the year at least, until we see a commitment to deliver real, practical change.

Survey:

Here is a link to the survey: Please complete by Friday 24th May 2024 to help shape our campaign. This will take less than 5 minutes.
Newry BID Business Rates Survey

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