Extension to rates relief for small businesses

A rates relief scheme for small businesses in Northern Ireland has been extended for a further year, the finance minister has announced.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 3rd March 2022, 7:50 am

The scheme entitles small businesses to an automatic reduction of between 20% and 50% on their rates.

The extension is the latest financial decision taken by Conor Murphy in the absence of a properly functioning Executive.

Last month, the minister told the Assembly he would be unable to progress Stormont’s draft three-year budget due to the power-sharing crisis – triggered by the resignation of DUP first minister Paul Givan.

Conor Murphy

But Mr Murphy said he was able to proceed with other specific policy measures for the coming financial year.

Those included a one-year extension of the current freeze on both the domestic and non-domestic regional rates. The draft budget had proposed a three-year freeze.

The minister secured Assembly approval for the one-year freeze on Tuesday.

In February Mr Murphy also said he would proceed with a proposed £50 million rate relief package for businesses.

The package will deliver a three-month rates holiday for sectors hit hardest by the pandemic – retail, tourism, hospitality, leisure, childcare, newspapers and airports. Other businesses will receive a one-month rates holiday.

Yesterday, Mr Murphy confirmed that the rates relief scheme for small businesses, which has been running since 2010, will also be extended into the 2022/23 financial year.

The minister this week visited two businesses in Belfast that are set to benefit – Two Sisters artisan food and craft store and Bumbles Day Care.

Patricia Maxwell, the managing director of Bumbles Day Care, said the three-month rates holiday would be a “great help”.

“The rates holiday has been fantastic, particularly for the childcare industry and without the financial support it’s hard to envisage where we would have been,” she said.

“It’s been instrumental in enabling us to think differently about how we do things and how we ensure we keep our environment safe for the children. It has also helped us in relation to our staff team. Without the financial assistance it would have been a very different ball game for the staff.”

Victoria Nicol, owner of the Two Sisters deli, added: “Our costs over the last 18 months have increased dramatically and things like the rates relief being extended for another three months really just helps with our fixed costs. It’s a quick win for us in just helping to manage costs and navigate very difficult and challenging times.”