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. The Member has brought this issue up before. We will move into consultation on all these measures rapidly. On many of the issues, I hope to move into consultation before Christmas.

We will not take anything forward before we thrash it out among ourselves. Do I believe that charity shops could pay 10%? I do, but I am happy to be informed by Members. As you know, the rate is 20% in Wales, Scotland and England, and it should not be any more than that. However, I believe that we have to stop the proliferation of such shops. We have just over 350 of them; I think that we are OK where we are, and I certainly do not want to see more. Could they make a small contribution of £15 a week? Yes, they could. However, I am happy to discuss that with yourself and see where it goes.

Another little idea that the Member will be interested in is whether we could use that money with the third sector, the charity sector, to encourage social or third-sector entrepreneurship. People are trying to find other ways of raising money for voluntary groups and charities. That is my preference, although only a small amount of money would be raised through it.

When we went out to consultation on the small business rate relief scheme, businesspeople had a principle that everybody should pay something, which I agree with. So, if you are on the high street, you should pay something. That is my opinion; it does not have to be an awful lot, but, in principle, everybody should pay something.

The last thing that I say to the Member, although it does not affect his constituency, is that an issue that we could tackle is that of higher-value units being let to charities — say a unit with an annual rent of £100,000 — thereby allowing landlords to dodge responsibility for paying empty property rates. There is much more sympathy for the towns and villages where charity shops are a key part of the mix.

I look forward to working with you. There will be plenty of opportunity through the Committee, the Assembly and the consultation to make views heard. It was a vigorous debate the last time, and I am sure that it will be again.