Northern Ireland news

Three month 'rates holiday' for businesses 'doesn't go far enough'

The minister is also deferring domestic rates bills from April until June, due to the "worrying time financially for households"

BUSINESSES affected by the coronavirus will be given a "rates holiday" as part of a multi-million pound emergency relief package announced last night by Finance Minister Conor Murphy.

The minister is also deferring domestic rates bills from April until June, due to the "worrying time financially for households".

"All businesses will pay zero rates for the next three months. This rates holiday will save businesses £100 million," he said.

"I am also deferring the issuing of rates bill from April until June to help businesses with short-term cash flow.

"As part of the budget I will now bring proposals to ministerial colleagues for a reduction in the regional business rate. This will benefit all businesses.

"These emergency measures will reduce costs and help with cashflow during this extremely challenging time. These are initial measures and I will be making further announcements shortly.

Read More: Support package 'too late' as thousands set for redundancy

"Rate relief alone will not sustain businesses and the jobs they provide. Everyone has to work together to get us through this."

The minister encouraged any home owners facing financial hardship to contact Land & Property Service.

"If any ratepayer has a difficulty paying rates in the current circumstances, I would encourage them to contact Land & Property Services to discuss alternative payment plans."

Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, welcomed the rates relief, but said the industry "are still a huge way away from what's needed; it's not enough; and it may be too late for many".

"Many of our members are rapidly losing their businesses and staff, and we need more measures to be implemented immediately. The stress and strain on our people is now immense as they fear they will not be able to provide for their families, pay bills or put food on the table."

But Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said Northern Ireland small businesses "need the same deal as (UK) Chancellor (Rishi Sunak) has outlined in his statement".

"The package from the Finance Minister needs to go a lot further than just exempting business rates for three months. The chancellor has given small business a rates holiday of a year in England and this needs to happen in Northern Ireland.

"Minister Murphy also needs to outline how much the Regional Rate will be reduced by.

"We also need urgent clarification as to whether the funding grants outlined by the Chancellor for small businesses of £10k-£25k apply in Northern Ireland."

"We want the Executive to do much, much more to support business throughout this crisis."

Simon Hamilton, CEO of Belfast Chamber described it as "a welcome first step in the right direction", but said "if business is to pull through this really challenging period and we are to protect jobs, then businesses will need much more support from the Executive".

He added to calls for "urgent" alignment with the support being given in Great Britain.

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