Review of business rates kicks off as high streets continue to struggle

editorial image

Shop owners in Magherafelt and Cookstown are being urged to make their views known on business rates.

The Department of Finance has announced its intention to undertake a full a comprehensive review of business rates.

Mid Ulster District councillors have been demanding a review of the system, blaming the closure of many shops in local towns on spiralling rates.

They have held meetings with department representatives to highlight the plight of many struggling business owners.

Independent Republican Councillor Barry Monteith told the Mail that the current system of business rates is completely outdated.

“Especially when we look at other countries like England and Wales where many small businesses and retailers pay no or substantially reduced rates. We need the same for small businesses and retailers here,” he said.

Ulster Unionist Councillor Trevor Wilson said the high rates needed to be tackled in order to ensure the future of our high streets.

Launching the consultation at the Institute of Revenues Rating and Valuation conference in Belfast on Monday, Permanent Secretary Sue Gray said they have been working with a wide range of stakeholders.

“Back in May I announced the Department’s intention to undertake a full and comprehensive review of business rates,” she said.

“Since then my Department has been working with a wide range of stakeholders including experts in urban regeneration, taxation and the high street to help inform the scope of this review and the consultation document which we are launching today.

“This review is about looking at the current position and making recommendations to ensure that our business rates system is effective and fair while raising the funds needed to support Northern Ireland’s key services.

“The business rates system, together with its suite of support measures, needs to be positioned to respond to changing marketplaces and local economic conditions.

“What we need now is for business ratepayers, business and trade organisations, local government and all interested parties to engage with us and put forward their perspectives, ideas and opinions.”

The Business Rates Review Team will be attending a series of events organised by councils, chambers of commerce and other organisations across Northern Ireland as part of the public consultation process which runs until November 11.

The consultation document can be viewed at: www.finance-ni.gov.uk/consultations/business-rates