Welcome relief for struggling small businesses

LOCAL traders’ representatives have welcomed the Northern Ireland Executive’s decision to expand the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme.

The initiative, aimed at helping struggling small businesses and promoting economic recovery, was brought forward by Finance Minister Sammy Wilson.

The measures, which will be funded by a 15 per cent levy on larger retailers, will run until March 2015 and will broadly double the amount of rate relief provided to small businesses.

The so-called ‘Tesco tax’ has been slammed by many of the borough’s major employers, including Asda, Tesco and B&Q, as unfair. And some have warned that the move could end up costing hundreds of jobs across Northern Ireland.

Mr Wilson commented: “The money raised through the levy will be used to provide much needed additional support to small businesses, which continue to struggle during these difficult economic times. Twenty per cent relief will be provided to those businesses with a nett annual value of £5,001 to £10,000, with around £6 million likely to be awarded in 2012/13.”

Also approved as part of the initiative is a 50 per cent ‘rate holiday’ for new start retailers who take on shops that have been lying empty for more than 12 months.

Darren Black, President of Ballyclare Chamber of Trade, welcomed the move, saying: “This is something that our Chamber has been heavily involved with and I’m pleased that we helped influence this.

“This is great news, but only a step as far as we are concerned. We would like rates regionalised, to make it cheaper for businesses and to attract bigger branded shops to towns like Ballyclare. Shopping in Ballyclare isn’t the same as shopping in Lisburn or Ballymena, so why are we billed the same?”

Nigel Hamilton, Secretary of the Glengormley Chamber and Traders’ Association, added: “We are delighted that the Executive is to proceed with extending the scheme which will assist 9,000 struggling small businesses and independent retailers across the province with their rates bills over the next three years. Glengormley needs to be a part of that and we will be helping and recommending members and traders to avail of this opportunity where they fit the criteria.”

Read the full story in this week’s Times...