'Finance Minister Must Assist Businesses Through Coronavirus'

The Finance Minister has come under pressure to introduce measures to assist businesses suffering a downturn in trade as a result of coronavirus.

Alliance MLA Andrew Muir said a number of firms are currently experiencing difficult times as customer habits change in response to the worldwide viral outbreak.

The North Down MLA urged Conor Murphy to defer rates payments over the coming months to ease the pressure on companies and protect jobs and livelihoods.

It comes after Chancellor Rishi Sunak said businesses in England will receive a break on rates bills, however Minister Murphy has not yet committed to extending the measure to Northern Ireland.
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"Whilst the Finance Minister has effectively ruled out replicating action being taken in relation to business rates in England, this must not preclude him from urgently bringing forward a number of initiatives, which can be swiftly implemented to give much needed assistance," Mr Muir commented.

"They could take the form of a number of actions – a uniform drop in non-domestic rates payable or taking a lenient view on businesses struggling to pay, meaning either a rates holiday or a deferral of payments until the economy recovers from this pandemic. In addition, the planned Reval 2020 rates revaluation process could be suspended for sectors badly hit by the rises, such as hotels and hospitality.

"The Minister must act without delay if jobs and livelihoods are to be protected. The impact of the Covid-19 is already significant but with prompt policy decisions right now we can help workers and businesses get through this temporary crisis."


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