Household rates to rise with inflation - Storey

Finance Minister Mervyn Storey
Finance Minister Mervyn Storey
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Household and business regional rates will rise in line with inflation, the finance minister Mervyn Storey has said.

The 1.7% increase due to take effect from April is equivalent to a real terms freeze, Mr Storey said.

“By freezing the regional rate in real terms for the sixth year in a row, the Executive has aimed to strike a balance between the needs of ratepayers during challenging economic times, and ensuring that public finances are sufficient to cover the priorities we have set ourselves,” he said.

The regional rate represents just over half of the typical tax; the other half being made up of district rates - which are set independently by the district councils.

Following agreement by the Assembly, the minister also announced the extension to two popular rate relief schemes - exemption for ATMs in rural areas and the empty shops concession providing a one year subsidy for new ventures occupying property that has been vacant for a year or more.

“The rating system provides significant revenue for Northern Ireland each year, supplementing expenditure on our hospitals, roads, schools and other essential public services, Mr Storey said.

“In the next financial year, the domestic and non domestic regional rate will raise in the region of £678 million, which will go towards these vital services.”

The real terms freeze in the regional rate alongside other measures taken by the Executive to alleviate some of the burden of rates represented the best balance between the interests of both ratepayers and the demands of public expenditure he said.

“Keeping a lid on rate increases is something we can be proud of.

“Indeed, household rate bills in Northern Ireland remain the lowest in the UK by some considerable margin and this is testament to the Executive delivering for the people of Northern Ireland.”

The ATM exemption scheme was introduced with the objective of encouraging and sustaining the provision of ATMs in rural area.

“ATMs play an important role in the sustainability of rural economies,” Mr Storey said.

“In fact, research has shown that, for every £10 withdrawn from one of these cash machines, almost two thirds is likely to be spent locally.”