Traders’ group welcomes move to freeze rates

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Ballyclare Chamber of Trade has welcomed the move by Newtownabbey Borough Council to freeze the district rate.

At a special meeting in Mossley Mill last Thursday evening (February 13), local councillors unanimously agreed that there should be no increase in the rate for 2014/15.

With the regional rate - the proportion of the rates set by the Northern Ireland Assembly - due to increase by 2.7 per cent, rates bills for householders and business owners in the borough are expected to rise by just under 1.5 per cent from April.

Alison Thompson, president of Ballyclare Chamber of Trade, commended the council for not putting up the district rate, but stressed that the whole rating system needs to be reviewed.

“This freeze shows that the council at least understands the difficulties faced by small businesses in these hard times. An increase in rates would or could have put many small businesses out of trading altogether,” she told the Times.

“However, we still feel that the current rating system is completely out of touch. Rents have been reduced but rates have not been brought in line with this quickly enough, and high overheads are undoubtedly still one of the major barriers to small business start up, growth and survival.

“Whilst current property revaluations are under review we can only hope our MLAs have the foresight and understanding to distribute the rating burden more fairly and develop a rating model which will nurture small businesses, which are the life blood of the economy.”

She continued: “We would also like to make sure that our council is run efficiently and economically and believe that the funding of programmes, seminars and events should be in equilibrium with the nurturing of small businesses in order to assist traders and our to town centres to survive.

“With the green shoots of economic recovery starting to appear this rates freeze is welcome news and a valuable step in building confidence and economic growth.”

Glengormley Chamber of Commerce and Traders’ Association was also asked to comment on the council’s decision not to increase the district rate. They had not responded at the time of going to print.