Rating Policy

Part of Ministerial Statements – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 11:30 am on 22nd November 2016.

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Photo of Máirtín Ó Muilleoir Máirtín Ó Muilleoir Sinn Féin 11:30 am, 22nd November 2016

I thank the Member for his question. I have had the pleasure, since my appointment, of visiting Lurgan and Banbridge. I have not been to Portadown, another large town in your constituency. In those town centres — and particularly, in fact, before my appointment, in Portadown — I have seen too many empty shops and too much dereliction on the high street. It is my intention that the measures that we introduce today, in concert with the business associations and with other Departments, particularly the Department for Communities, will lead to a turnaround. We did introduce what I refer to as the spray-and-pray approach, where everybody got some rates relief, in 2010, but now we are trying to have a more targeted approach. I think that we need to speak to the councils because this is clearly focused, for the first time ever, on a package of rates measures that focuses on hospitality, which, of course, is linked to tourism. For many years the Executive have been putting the focus on tourism, yet we have not joined up our thinking on rates. We are doing that now.

I say to Mr O'Dowd that it is my hope that this will be a spur for economic growth that will set us on a path of more prosperous town centres and more prosperous high streets. You will note, when we go through some of the detail, that it is my intention that, for this new targeted rates relief scheme and support scheme for retail and hospitality, there should be a higher net asset value (NAV) for the properties right up to £25,000. That will bring in many of the pubs, many of the cafes and many of the retail businesses in Portadown, Lurgan and Banbridge. It will probably not include them all — some of the bigger ones — but it widens the net considerably and gives people a real lift in the time ahead. I look forward to my invitation to go back to Banbridge, Lurgan, Portadown and other parts of your constituency, and I look forward to working with the business organisations, the councils and the other Departments to make sure that we all row in behind this idea to get the maximum lift from it.