NEWRY'S Business Improvement District (BID) Manager has called for a “fair rates policy” to help retail and licensed premises.
Eamonn Connolly said that these businesses have shouldered a “disproportionate share of the rates burden”.
It comes after the Permanent Secretary at the Department of Finance, Sue Gray, announced a full and comprehensive review of business rates.
She said: “In recent years significant changes have taken place in our high streets and town centres. It is critical from a business perspective, as well as a government funding perspective, that our rating system is capable of responding to this wider process of change.
“We must create a rating system which generates the funding our public services need while supporting businesses in all sector and enabling economic growth right across Northern Ireland.
“In an environment where we are working without Ministers there are limitations to what we can do by way of policy change. But we need to be ready with updated advice for incoming Ministers for their return to office. This fundamental review is therefore a critical part of this process.”
In response to the announcement, Mr Connolly said that Newry BID had been lobbying for “a fair rates policy with reductions for key sectors on the High Street”.
“The absence of a devolved government has increased the challenge and therefore makes the Permanent Secretary’s statement all the more important as we seek to achieve rates parity with other comparable business located in the rest of the UK many of who pay a fraction of the business rates small businesses here in NI are expected to pay.”
Mr Connolly said that Newry's businesses contribute £16.7 million in rates or 39% of the non-domestic rates receipts in the entire Council district.
“The current exemptions for the manufacturing sector and 'on-line' businesses are outdated and inequitable,” he added.
“These central policies have resulted in retail and licensed premises shouldering a disproportionate share of the rates burden which has in turn contributed to many of these locally owned, socially important small and medium businesses experiencing financial distress.
“We know from actual evidence that high levels of business rates also deter investment and actually impact negatively on public sector income as high business rates deters economic activity, lowering economic growth. Indeed, many businesses deem high business rates to be an existential threat.”
Newry BID's BID policy of supporting business has led to them engaging directly with Land and Property Services under their Reval2020 initiative.
They have commissioned Best Property Services to undertake an exercise analysing current market rents in Newry in comparison with NAVs. This report will support Newry BIDs lobbying with LPS to assist where Net Annual Values are considerably in excess of market rents.
“Newry BID wants to see a fair rates policy to support existing business and stimulate new business as we strive to improve trading conditions in Newry and encourage entrepreneurs to fill vacant units. We will continue to represent our members concerns on this key issue and look forward to gathering more evidence of differentials between rents and NAVs to support our case,” concluded Mr Connolly.