Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has unveiled his proposals for a groundbreaking shake-up of the rates system.
‘A Rates Rethink: Spurring Economic Growth’ includes a £22m investment in retail and hospitality businesses, the introduction of two pilot Business Empowerment Zones and removal of the domestic rates cap.
Commenting on the package, the Minister said: “I want to make sure that the rates system encourages regeneration, investment and entrepreneurship, while at the same time discourages dereliction and decline.”
Speaking about support for business, the Minister said: “I am announcing a groundbreaking approach to partnering local hospitality and retail businesses by directing a £22m stimulus towards those sectors which are key to the survival of our town and city centres.
“This will increase the average award for eligible businesses to two-and-a-half times the current levels under the small business rate relief scheme. It will mean that any business with a Net Annual Value of less than £10,000 will only pay 50 per cent rates while businesses right up to £25,000 NAV will get significant support. I am particularly pleased that the focus on hospitality enables me to align my proposals with the successful work to grow our tourism sector.”
Turning to regeneration area pilot schemes, the Minister said: “The introduction of business empowerment zones in east and west Belfast at a cost of £1m on a pilot basis shows we are willing to try bold new approaches to rebuild working class areas. These proposals will not work alone but will require joined-up approaches.”
Commenting on the rate levy on homes with a capital value over £400,000, the Minister said: “I believe that those who can afford to contribute to the rating system should do so. However, the application of a £400,000 cap means that those in houses with a higher value pay proportionately less than those in middle or lower value homes. I want to see this corrected with measures introduced to ensure a more proportionate contribution, while safeguarding elderly pensioners on low incomes who have remained in high value family homes.”
The Minister concluded: “These are tough choices but our determination to modernise the rating system, support more jobs and to boost our town centres and high streets demands bold action.”
The proposals outlined by the Minister will be put forward for public consultation before going through the Executive and the Assembly.
A copy of the Minister’s full statement to the Assembly is available on the DoF website.
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