Finance Minister Simon Hamilton MLA was the guest speaker at the Coleraine DUP Branch Annual General Meeting.
Mr Hamilton spoke on the current political situation and his ministerial role and his plans to evaluate the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme.
He said: “Since the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme was introduced, the scheme provided much needed support to businesses throughout Northern Ireland during a difficult economic period.”The scheme is due to end in April 2015 but I am taking steps to evaluate the scheme in line with the Executive’s Programme for Government. Preparatory work on the evaluation will start in the next few weeks.”
The Minister also confirmed the extension of further relief for hard-pressed house builders in Northern Ireland by continuing the initial exemption from rates liability for empty homes built speculatively during the property boom.
This is designed to help local builders left with surplus housing stock following the near collapse of the housing market a few years ago.
Mr Hamilton told his audience: “Although the housing market is showing signs of recovery, the imposition of rates on builders holding stocks of unsold houses built speculatively during the housing boom will not help the recovery of the construction industry in Northern Ireland.
“This exemption, which applies to a particular generation of properties badly affected by the housing crash, will be extended for an additional 12 month period.
“It is my expectation that, given the recent emerging signs of increased sales in the housing market, numbers in receipt of this exemption will start to fall substantially in the next rating year.”
Officers for 2014: Chairman: Cllr Mark Fielding; Vice Chairman: Stanley White; Secretary: Cllr Michelle Knight-McQuillan: Assistant Secretary: Mrs Angela Knot: Treasurer: Ald James McClure; Press Officer: Maurice Bradley;Assistant Press Officer: Cllr George Duddy; Chaplain: John Sproule.