Business rates boost for borough

STORMONT’S so called “Tesco Tax” could fund small business rate relief for an additional 458 businesses in the borough of Coleraine, according to East Londonderry MP, Gregory Campbell.

That will bring to 1,364 the total number of businesses in Coleraine, Portrush, Portstewart, Castlerock, Garvagh and Kilrea that will enjoy up to 50% discount on their bills from April this year if MLAs gives the scheme the green light.

The DUP MP and MLA, pictured right, made the startling revelation to journalists at the weekend after Finance Minister Sammy Wilson disclosed the information in response to an official Assembly question.

The Rate Relief Scheme was first introduced here on April 1st, 2010, but could make a second return to the statute books this year in a new beefed-up and expanded reincarnation which will run for three years.

Amounting to some £6.3M in its first outing, the reformed scheme is expected to cost double that this time around but will be paid for through a 15% Large Retail Levy on giant supermarkets and High Street chain stores whose profits don’t go back into the immediate local economy.

Although the decision has yet to be ratified by full Assembly, news of the additional funding for Coleraine businesses received a warm welcome from Mr. Campbell who was delighted to know that Limavady, another town in his constituency, would also benefit albeit at a figure nearly half that of Coleraine.

After receiving the data from the Finance and Personnel Minister, Mr. Campbell explained that eligible businesses were recorded by district council level as well as ward level with town centres showing greatest demand.

“In Coleraine town it is Central Ward (currently 196 but expected to rise to 248). In Limavady it is Roeside Ward (108 rising to 181). Wards where industrial estates are located have also a high number of properties - Dundooan in Coleraine (81 rising to 112) and Aghanloo in Limavady (56 rising to 82),” he said.

“This is good news for a number of smaller outlets, particularly in the current economic climate. Over the next couple of years the recovery needs to begin so the ‘cushion effect’ this provides may help stimulate growth in the small business sector.”

Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment Minister and fellow DUP MLA Arlene Foster also commented on the proposed increase to the rate relief scheme.

“It is good to see that the Finance Minister has decided to expand the small business rate relief scheme, because that will make a real difference to a lot of small businesses across Northern Ireland. The 20% relief for those with a net asset value of £5,000 to £10,000 would give an average award of £730 at 2011-12 levels. The idea is that the hearts of villages, small towns and bigger towns will be kept alive during what has been a very difficult period for them.

“Having looked at the situation in the round and at how larger businesses have been much more resilient than some of our small businesses, which live from month to month in relation to their cash flow, I believe that it is a substantial help for those small businesses and will be at minimal cost to those larger businesses that will be asked to pay the levy,” she concluded.

Eligibility for the scheme will be based on the net annual value (NAV) of each business property. Those with an NAV of less than £2,000 will receive a 50% reduction, between £2,000 and £5,000 a 25% reduction and business with an NAV of between £5,000 and £10,000 will receive a 20% discount on their bills.

There is no application procedure for the Small Business Rate Relief. Instead, relief will be applied automatically by Land & Property Services to all businesses that qualify. If you think that you should have been awarded the relief, or you believe you have been awarded it in error, please contact Land & Property Services via telephone on 0300 200 7801 (local rate) or via email to applicationbased.raterelief@dfpni.gov.uk