As Ministers have still not been appointed to the Northern Ireland Executive, Departments remain in a situation where they continue to deliver public services without the day-to-day leadership and direction of local ministers. In rating policy terms, we will continue to act in line with the direction set by previous ministers and the Executive in their draft programme for government.
Rates Bills 2018-19
On Wednesday 28th March 2018 the Northern Ireland (Regional Rates and Energy) Bill gained Royal Assent following its passage through Westminster. The Bill sets the amounts of the regional domestic and non-domestic rates for the financial year ending on 31 March 2019. The Bill implements an increase in the domestic regional rate of 4.5%. The non-domestic rates increase by 1.5%, in line with inflation.
In her statement on 8th March 2018 the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland also confirmed that the budget settlement for 2018/19 would provide the basis for the Small Business Rate Relief to continue. The legislation extending the scheme for 2018/19 has now been made by the Department of Finance and comes into operation on 1st April 2018.
In September 2017, the new rate rebate scheme for working age claimants awarded Universal Credit, who can no longer avail of Housing Benefit was introduced. This policy was previously agreed by Executive Ministers, following three consultations. The regulations for the new rate rebate scheme were made on 11 September 2017 and came into operation from 27 September 2017.
Universal Credit (UC) replaces housing benefit for rent only therefore a localised scheme for help with rates in Northern Ireland had to be devised. The new scheme will gradually replace housing benefit for rates in tandem with the introduction of universal credit by geographical area.
The new scheme is therefore only available in areas where UC has been introduced and you must qualify for UC to be entitled to rate rebate. Rates support for those not eligible to claim UC will continue to be provided through the social security system by housing benefit.
The local low income rate relief scheme, which is a top up of housing benefit, will also be phased out alongside housing benefit for rates.
Details on how to claim can be found on nidirect.