Rates bill rises for households in north may be on the way up

Minister Ó Muilleoir said household rates would be assessed in the context of welfare reform.

THE north's household rates could be set to increase following the first revaluation for more than a decade.

Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has asked the executive to approve a revaluation of both domestic and business rates, saying he wants to ensure "that those who can afford to contribute some more, do so."

The Sinn Féin minister has suggested he may end exemptions such as those for empty properties, farm buildings and the long-standing arrangement that means manufacturers pay only 30 per cent of their total rates bill.

In response to a written question from the DUP's Sammy Douglas, the finance minister said he regarded revalution of the rates system as a "key issue". Mr Ó Muilleoir hopes to begin the review of household and business rates "at the earliest opportunity" but the exercise was "subject to the very tight budgetary position we find ourselves in".

"In terms of the non domestic rating system my priority is for better targetting of support to stimulate economic activity and regeneration, in line with our emerging priorities for the programme for government – rather than simply preserving all the broadly based relief entitlements that have grown up over many years," Mr Ó Muilleoir said.

"For instance, I am looking at changes to the empty property rate and ways that derelict property can be charged, not simply to raise more money but to help avoid the blighting of our towns and cities."

The minister said household rates would be assessed in the context of welfare reform.

"On the domestic side of rating, I am examining a range of measures in order to have a fairer distribution of the rates burden; protecting those least able to pay rates when Universal Credit comes along, as well as ensuring that those who can afford to contribute some more, do so," he said.

"My officials are also evaluating the effectiveness of the current arrangements for landlord liability and the district rates convergence scheme, now in its second year."

Mr Ó Muilleoir he would present proposals to the assembly in the coming months and bring forward the necessary legislation.

Manufacturing NI chief executive Stephen Kelly said the minister's remarks about business rates "raise some alarm" among his members, given recent factory closures and huge uncertainty around Brexit.

"However, we are reassured that both the DUP and Sinn Féin have stated a commitment in their manifesto and the recent consultations to retain industrial derating and we would hope that this would be committed to for the full assembly term in the upcoming Stormont budget," he said.

We’d also like to see a focus on making sure that the efficiencies promised from the Review of Public Administration begin to be manifested in the rate poundage which local councils are setting.

"These are as equally important as any rateable value or allowances and as yet ratepayers aren’t seeing any decline in their bills.

The current valuation list for domestic properties came into effect in April 2007 and is based on 2005 capital values.

A consultation on a review of the non-domestic rates system was conducted between October 2015 and January this year.


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