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Independent retailers slam 'year without government' and vow to fight several budget proposals

Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said it was "simply beyond belief" that there has been no functioning government for the past year

A GROUP representing independent retailers has said the business community "deserve better" after an entire year without a functioning Executive at Stormont, as it vowed to fight against several budget options put forward in the absence of ministers.

Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts described 2017 as a "year of wasted political opportunities" for Northern Ireland.

Mr Roberts said: "It is simply beyond belief that we have had an entire calendar year without a government and with little immediate prospect of an Executive being restored.

"Our members and wider local business community deserve better than this. 2018 must see political agreement and a new Executive hitting the ground running in tackling the key challenges facing our economy."

Mr Roberts said the organisation was "completely opposed" to several revenue-raising options put forward in a briefing paper from the Department of Finance, published before Christmas.

One suggestion to increase business rates was "a non starter", he said.

"What makes this proposal even more unacceptable is that the department also suggests ending the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme which would be a double whammy for our members and the wider small business sector."

He also criticised a proposal for a hike in on-street car parking charges.

The chief executive of Retail NI said the group was "amazed" that the proposals were "even included as viable options" and said it would write to party leaders and the Secretary of State outlining its opposition.

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