Rating Policy

Part of Ministerial Statements – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 12:00 pm on 22nd November 2016.

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Photo of Máirtín Ó Muilleoir Máirtín Ó Muilleoir Sinn Féin 12:00 pm, 22nd November 2016

I thank the Member for her question. I suppose it goes back to the basis of our new thinking. In 2010, we introduced a small business rate relief scheme. That was helpful to many small businesses, and I am sure that many of us know the owners of small businesses. We will be six, seven or perhaps eight years on when — I hope — we introduce our new measures, and it is time for a more targeted approach.

In other places where they have had to designate businesses as "retail" or "other", they have found a way to do it, and I am confident that we will be the same. Offices will lose out, and they are important. Therefore, having supported for seven years an average payment of £700, we are moving on to a system where we will target our resources elsewhere. I am going to spend more money: the last small business rate relief scheme cost around £18 million, and I intend to spend £22 million on this.

There is a lot of work for Land and Property Services (LPS) to make calls on. I have not made them, but I am sure that, in consultation with the Committee, we will make calls on dog-grooming services, hairdressers and so on. How do they differentiate from a payday lender? Is that someone whom we wish to allow into the scheme? I would not wish to see that.

There is a lot of work to be done. It will not lead to any decrease in activity on the high street; it will lead to an increase. I am very happy to look with all stakeholders, including Members, at how we define retail and hospitality businesses and differentiate them from other businesses that have benefited over the past six years and got a nice little lift from us to make sure that they survive these times.