Rating Policy

Part of Ministerial Statements – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 12:15 pm on 22nd November 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Máirtín Ó Muilleoir Máirtín Ó Muilleoir Sinn Féin 12:15 pm, 22nd November 2016

Go raibh maith agat as an cheist. Thug mé cuairt ar Rinn Mhic Giolla Rua ar na mallaibh. Tá súil agam go mbeidh mé arais, le dea-scéala más féidir, ach tá súil agam go gcuideoidh seo leis an cheantar. I have been to Warrenpoint at the invitation of the Member, and I believe that, like all the other towns, villages and cities, this would benefit Warrenpoint, especially now that it is trying to focus more on tourism in the time ahead.

I know that I am trying your patience, Mr Speaker, because I have been on my feet too long, but a really major change in the new rate relief proposals is that people have to apply. Previously, under the spray-and-pray approach, we just said that every business under a certain NAV would get relief. We are now saying that it is targeted at small retail and hospitality, but, as well as that, you have to apply. It is a very simple application process, but you have to prove that you have made an investment in your business. If your rate relief is £1,000, you need to show us that you spent £1,000 on new equipment and skills training, and you employed more staff. We want to make it online-only and really simple, but, for the first time, you will have to ask for the rate relief. In my mind, that is a sea change because people will now understand that they are earning something and are entitled to it, but they have to ask for it.

In my view, another way for a business to be entitled to the new business rate relief system is for it to be accredited with the Living Wage Foundation, which accredits businesses. The new living wage is £8·45, but businesses that pay that can have the proud boast that they are Living Wage Foundation companies. If any small business in retail or hospitality can say to us, "I won this accreditation", that, for me, would be enough to entitle it to ask for and receive rate relief. I hope that that encourages more companies to look seriously at how they can increase the money that they pay their staff. Of course, when you have added investment in staff, you will demand more productivity, but all that moves people up the business and job value chain. My officials will be speaking to the Living Wage Foundation people today, and this relationship can only benefit businesses and employees in the time ahead.