24/03/2016

Views Sought On Small Business Rate Relief Scheme

Views are being sought on alternatives to the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme as part of an evaluation being carried out by the Ulster University’s Economic Policy Centre (UUEPC).

The Department of Finance and Personnel commissioned the UUEPC to undertake an evaluation of the Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) scheme, which was introduced in 2014 at the time of the economic downturn.

Finance Minister Mervyn Storey said: "I am inviting views on alternatives to small business rate relief, with a particular focus on town centres. Small business rate relief is a popular scheme but the independent evaluation found it to be poorly targeted.

"I am canvassing views on other targeted measures, including rating and other initiatives that would provide greater support to small businesses than the current scheme.

"This also takes forward some of the issues raised in the recent review of business rates, around piloting local discretion over rate relief and imposing levies on derelict property, to encourage regeneration and investment in some areas.
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"I am keen that my Department explores this further and engages with the business community on some of the ideas set out in this paper to help support our town centres."

Minister for Social Development, Lord Morrow MLA, added: "Our towns and cities have faced many challenges over recent years and they are not as competitive as their national counterparts with the evidence base showing lower levels of employment, enterprise, and population.

"We will aim to drive economic growth, through better targeted support, which facilitates and incentivises investment in our urban centres. Investment that will attract and retain new and existing businesses.

"We acknowledge the impact that technology and consumer habits are having on our town centres and we need innovative measures in response. We want to build on current initiatives like Business Improvement Districts and I look forward to hearing the views of the business community."

Views on the alternatives to the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme can be made between 21 March 2016 and 13 May 2016.

(MH/JP)

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