Hospitality chiefs demand curb on ‘killer’ rate increases

Hospitality Ulster
Barkeeper pulling a pint of beer Every £100 spent in hospitality generates £58 to the north's economy, according to Hospitality Ulster (Wavebreakmedia/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Industry body Hospitality Ulster has urged the Stormont Assembly to examine how a ceiling on councils’ ability to raise rates could be introduced.

The plea comes as local authorities set their new district rates for homes and businesses, revealing increases of almost 10 per cent in Mid and East Antrim.

Businesses in the sector are warning that, on top of inflationary pressures, and excessive VAT rates, business rates hikes will cripple pubs and restaurants when they are already burdened with higher rates per pound and receive no direct rates relief compared to similar businesses elsewhere in the UK.

A recent survey by Hospitality Ulster revealed that 80% of its members want to see the business rates multiplier permanently lower for the entire sector and that the current situation is out of kilter with reality and effectively killing off businesses.

The body’s chief executive Colin Neill insists the Executive must act now and introduce policy, legislation or a mechanism to make sure rates don’t spiral out of control, especially when the business rates system in Northern Ireland is already unfit for purpose.

He said: “Hospitality businesses are already under extreme pressure from rising costs in every direction, and these killer rates hikes by local councils are yet another blow to our pubs and restaurants right across Northern Ireland.”

“We have consistently made the point that the entire business rating system in Northern Ireland is unfit for purpose. It does not take into account the unique features of our sector, one that is focused on small, indigenous businesses.

“Business rates have held our sector back as well as our town and village centres, disincentivising investment and restricting business and jobs growth.”

“Excessive hikes from our local councils are yet another blow to business owners who are already struggling to keep the doors open. Now that we have a functioning Assembly here in Northern Ireland, introducing legislation to protect businesses from eye-watering rates hikes is something that needs urgent prioritisation.

“It makes no sense for us to push for stabilisation of the regional rate, but allow councils to increase the local rate to the levels that they have just last week.”

Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, said he fears for businesses in the sector
Ulster hospitality Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster (Brian Lawless/PA)

He added: “The hospitality industry generates economic growth and drives investment across our cities and towns, so our concerns deserve to be acknowledged. Every £100 spent in hospitality here generates £58 to the local economy; without hospitality, our economy cannot grow.

“A recent survey has also revealed that 70 per cent of our members believe that business rates reform in Northern Ireland is the most important measure to allow their business to survive and grow.

“We need urgent action from our politicians to protect the industry’s future.”