Council urged to strike zero business rate

BANBRIDGE District Council has been urged by the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) to freeze business rates at 0 per cent when striking local rates.

The trading body has urged all 26 councils to take similar action as a gesture of solidarity with Belfast traders who have been adversely affected by the ongoing flag protests.

Chief executive of the group, Glyn Roberts, has also encouraged Belfast traders who have been impacted by the protests not to pursue a rates strike.

“We fully understand the anger and frustration felt by many Belfast Traders who have had their businesses disrupted as result of the protests and rioting,” he said. “However, refusing to pay their rates is breaking the law and they will face legal action for repayment.”

He added that NIIRTA would be writing to the chief executives of all 26 local councils to ask them to freeze business rates and strike a 0 per cent rate to take the pressure off recession-hit small businesses and retailers.

“If local councils can reduce business rates without any reduction in support for local town centres or local traders, then they should do so,” he added.

“We should also not forget that the next extension of the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme will be made in April, reducing the rates bills of thousands of local businesses in every part of Northern Ireland.”

The group is set to discuss the matter with Finance Minister Sammy Wilson to see if there are any options for enhanced Rates Hardship Schemes or more flexibility in repayment of bills to give support to small businesses.