Northern Ireland news

Just four businesses benefit from rates hardship scheme in five years

The scheme is designed to help businesses in unforeseen circumstances such as flooding. Picture by Justin Kernoghan
John Monaghan

A SCHEME set up to help businesses struggling with rate payments following an unforeseen crisis such as flooding is to be reviewed after it emerged just four firms benefited in five years.

The Rates Hardship Fund can offer companies a maximum of a year without having to pay any rates.

Responding to a question from TUV North Antrim MLA Jim Allister, finance minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir revealed that the programme is to be re-examined.

"Given that only a very small number of businesses have benefited from hardship relief, I have asked my officials to review the scheme to determine if the criteria are too stringent," he said.

The fund was criticised in an article co-written by Glyn Roberts, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association, and Colin Neill, the chief executive of Hospitality Ulster.

It said: "Reform of the Rates Hardship Fund is needed to ensure it is easier for our members to claim in the event of flooding or serious disruption to trade as a result of major roadworks or public realm changes."

Mr Allister welcomed the review, saying he knew of businesses that had been denied assistance from the hardship fund.

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