Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson has raised the issue of recent increases in business rates with the new DUP Finance Minister Arlene Foster.
Mrs Dobson, questioning the new Minister on her first day in office, asked what further measures or action would be taken to help small businesses which have received a rise in recent bills.
“For many these rises stretch into thousands of pounds and in some cases as much as a 300 per cent increase on last year’s bill,” she said.
“I have been approached my many local traders in recent weeks who have told me that without help they will struggle to afford this additional levy.”
Mrs Dobson has written to the Minister on behalf of each of these companies because, she says, this issue raises serious concerns about local jobs and investment.
Mrs Dobson said that in answer to her question about additional help, Minister Foster pointed towards the appeals process and stated that any business ‘dissatisfied with any part of the new assessment’ should appeal as soon as possible.
“Given the sheer volume of contact which I have received from companies dissatisfied with their bills I would be concerned that this will become a drawn out and cumbersome process.
“While the Minister is on record as saying that she wants the business rates system to be ‘fair’ that is not the experience of business owners who I have been speaking to in recent weeks – far from it.
“They cannot understand how their rates bills have risen so substantially from last year to this year.”