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Muir: More than ever we need a fit for purpose rating system

The Alliance Party has today backed the proposed regional rate at the Assembly, almost three months after the initial debate should have taken place, with bills delayed and first payments now due to be taken in June.

Speaking this afternoon, Finance spokesperson Andrew Muir MLA said the Party backed the proposed rate which delivers an 18% reduction for businesses but noted serious financial position Councils now find themselves in.

He said: “We are in unprecedented times with situation now being faced drastically different than back in February when Councils struck their rate. The drop in revenue derived from provision of services such as Leisure, Planning, Tourism, and more together with almost certain higher levels of arrears and reduction in rates base means Councils could be pushed to be brink of insolvency if support is not forthcoming. That’s why it is essential the Department of Finance, working with the Department of Communities, provides the financial assistance necessary to ensure our Councils continue and don’t need to apply double digit rises next year.

“The new economic circumstances we now find ourselves require more than ever a fit for purpose business rating system not focused purely on bricks and mortar hence why recommendations from recent rating review ought to be brought forward coupled with targeted extension of the rates relief taking into account those businesses who will remain longer under lockdown restrictions and struggle to come back as soon as others”.