Rates relief extended to help businesses

BUSINESSES in Ballymoney and Moyle have failed to take advantage of an ‘empty premises’ rates relief scheme which the Finance Minister is to extend.

Finance Minister Sammy Wilson announced on Wednesday his intention to extend a number of rate reliefs and exemptions to assist businesses.

The Empty Retail Premises Relief scheme and the rates exemption for stand alone ATMs in rural areas which were due to end in March 2013 will now be extended until the end of the current budget period in March 2015, subject to Assembly approval.

The Minister also announced his intention to extend the current 18 month developer exclusion applicable under the Rating of Empty Homes for a further 12 months.

A total of 52 businesses in Northern Ireland have benefitted from the scheme but no businesses within the Moyle District Council area have availed of the scheme to date.

And, just one business within the Ballymoney area has availed of the relief.

Speaking in the Assembly, Sammy Wilson commented: “The Executive recognises the difficulties that our local businesses are facing and are committed to helping them in these challenging financial times.

“Northern Ireland has led the way with this innovative scheme and was the first devolved administration in the UK to introduce such an initiative; Scotland is now following in our footsteps. 52 businesses have benefitted from a 50% reduction on their rates totalling £143,000 since the introduction of this new rate relief in April 2012.

“As well as tackling the high number of shops in our town centres this scheme is also helping to create much needed employment in this difficult economic climate. I would encourage anyone thinking of setting up a business in an empty retail unit to consider applying for this concession. Just ask Land & Property Services and they will be happy to advise you about applying.”

During his statement the Minister also highlighted the assistance the Executive is providing for small businesses by extending the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme to include properties with a Net Annual Value of up to £15,000. This will see an additional 3,500 businesses benefitting from a 20% reduction on their rates.

Another measure which the Finance Minister intends to extend is the exemption of rates for stand alone ATMs in rural areas.

Further information about the Empty Retail Premise Scheme can be found on the nibusinessinfo website at http://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/emptypremises or by calling the Land & Property Services helpline on 0300 200 7801.