A formal consultation on rates reform in Northern Ireland will commence in the New Year and it is fundamentally important for BID members engage with this process, according to Newry BID (Business Improvement District) Manager, Eamonn Connolly.
A fair business rates system has been at the top of the lobbying agenda for Newry BID for many years. In the wake of the recent city centre floods, it has again become very clear that rates are a major burden for city centre businesses.
Last week, Eamonn Connolly, attended a workshop with LPS -Land and Property Services, (the body responsible for administering rates) as part of the Secretary of State’s directive to carry out a review of revenue raising measures.
Eamonn Connolly said, “People may have seen the recent financial proposal for up to £2.5 billion funding support to return to Stormont. An agreement on this may be imminent in the coming days. What people may not realise is that one of the conditions currently on the table is a 15% increase in rates. Our city centre businesses just could not absorb this type of increase, it would lead to serious issues for town and city centres.”
Eamonn Connolly continued, “This is why it is fundamentally important for every business to engage in this process. We will share the relevant information and key dates with our members.
In the meantime, early in the new year, we will be issuing a survey to members to seek their views on the areas up for discussion. This includes the BID’s longstanding view that retail, hospitality, and professional services are overrated due to the unique exemptions/reductions in Northern Ireland including in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors.”
“To put this in context removal of manufacturing rates relief would bring NI in line with England, Scotland and Wales and could raise an estimated £71.5 million for Stormont next year.
We believe this type of additional revenue would help the Department of Infrastructure address fundamental deficits such as the lack of flood alleviation measures.
“Vacant commercial premises rates relief is another area to be reviewed. Traditionally we have been supportive of this initiative to provide 50% rates relief for three months in vacant commercial premises. We will however, be asking our members opinion in this; as removal of this relief would generate an estimated £19.7 million per annum. This would be divided between central and local government.
Reliefs such as Freight and Transport Rates Relief (typically harbours and ferry terminals) at £2.3 million per annum and Halls of Residence rates exemption which costs £2 million per annum will also be reviewed in the consultation.”
Eamonn Connolly concluded, “It is vitally important that businesses engage with us on this matter so that we get as many views as possible to help shape our lobby. The outcomes of this consultation will absolutely shape the future of our town and city centres, so it is imperative that Newry city centre has its say.”
Further information on BID membership and the consultation process will be available on newry.com and in local press.