Hospitality could get further three months rates relief
The Stormont draft budget is proposing an extension of the business rates holiday that was due to end in April 2022.
Finance Minister Conor Murphy announced that most businesses will get a further one-month exemption, while those in hard-hit sectors like retail, hospitality and childcare will get three months. Large food shops and utilities will not get an exemption.
“Given high energy costs and the general cost of living crisis, regional rates will be frozen for businesses and households. The draft Budget is also proposing a £50 million rates support package for businesses in 2022-23,” the Minister announced.
“As Covid has impacted on all sectors of the economy, the proposed package would provide a one month rates holiday to all businesses with the exception of utilities and larger food stores and a three month rates holiday for retail, tourism, hospitality, leisure, childcare and airports which are the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic.
“To help tackle vacant properties in high streets the Back in Business scheme will be re-introduced on a more generous basis providing businesses occupying a vacant retail property with 24 months rates relief instead of 12.”
Squeeze on spending
While the proposed budget proposes a 10% increase in health funding, all other departments are facing a squeeze on funding. Ministers had previously agreed to prioritise health and use the majority of funding to deal with the crisis including waiting lists.
The majority of the Executive has voted to put the three-year budget plan out to public consultation from next week, but DUP ministers voted against the move.
Responding to the proposals, Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said: “It is to be welcomed that Minister Murphy has outlined a further three months’ rates holiday for smaller businesses from April 2022. This may have to extended if the Executive brings forward new Covid regulations that impact on their ability to trade.
“We look forward to working with the Minister on his new proposals to increase to 24 months’ rates relief for retailers who occupy vacant properties. This has been a long-term policy priority for Retail NI and is important if we are to address the huge problem of dereliction on our high streets.
“It is disappointing that the Executive could not agree on this budget and does make it difficult for business and civic society to respond to the document if there is not consensus amongst the five parties.
“If the parties do agree a new budget in the next few weeks, will this consultation be stopped and a new one started?”
A meeting of the executive on Friday morning was requested by Finance Minister Conor Murphy to sign off the draft budget before public consultation.
Afterwards, he said: “We don’t have the resources that we need for everything, so that means there are choices to be made.”
“The proposition going out is to prioritise health, to support health, to get waiting lists down, to support mental health provision and cancer provision.”
Details of the plan will be outlined in the assembly next week.