29/07/2009

Rates Relief For SMEs Proposed

A scheme to reduce the rates burden for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in Northern Ireland looks set to get the go-ahead.

Stormont Finance Minister Sammy Wilson today confirmed his commitment to press ahead with a scheme for Northern Ireland, following a meeting with the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association.

"The policy I am taking forward has been fully endorsed by the Executive and, since its announcement, there has been cross party support and calls from the business community to introduce it at the earliest opportunity.

"I listened carefully to the Association and recent calls from the Federation of Small Businesses," he said.

"Both organisations stressed the need to get the necessary legislation passed by the Assembly as a matter of urgency.

"I will take whatever steps are needed to ensure that the legislation is brought forward and passed as soon as possible."

The Minister went on to explain that, following Executive approval, the support of the Assembly will be vital in order to deliver the scheme.

He said: "The necessary enabling legislation has been drafted. When the Executive clears it, I will be looking to all parties in the Assembly to give this the green light and drive it through so that the scheme can be delivered in time for next year's bills - delivering real help to many of our smaller businesses during this downturn," he claimed.

"This is particularly important because the scheme cannot be introduced without the legislation in place."

Welcoming the move, Glyn Roberts, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) said: "The introduction of a Small Business Rate Relief Scheme will be of considerable help to those small retailers and businesses who are struggling to pay their rates bills as the result of the downturn.

"Minister Wilson and his predecessor, Nigel Dodds, deserve considerable credit for bringing the scheme forward which will bring us into line with the rest of the UK.

"This has been a long-term policy priority for NIIRTA and we have raised this issue with all of the local political parties, who have indicated their support for the scheme.

"We now need to see that all-party support when the Assembly considers the legislation."

(BMcC/JM)

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