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Targeted extension of rates relief essential provided it is focused on most severely affected sectors, says Farry

A targeted extension of a rates holiday is essential as part of a strategic package of tailored measures to help businesses survive the coronavirus pandemic, Alliance MP Stephen Farry has said.

Finance Minister Conor Murphy has announced the deferral of the issuing of rates for businesses from this month until June. Dr Farry said there is a strong case for the targeted extension beyond that date, provided it is focused on the most severely affected sectors.

“Some sectors are likely to remain under lockdown restrictions beyond July even, with hospitality, tourism and leisure particularly affected,” said the North Down MP.

“It would not make sense to issue rates bills to these businesses, taking into account in all likelihood, these bills would be unpaid with no trading activity to fund payment. The rates system was the most readily available tool for the Executive, but it can be a very blunt instrument, missing some in real need for support while advantaging others which don't need the level of support.

“The Executive needs to use the resources available to it as strategically as possible. Resources should also be deployed to assist with urgent re-skilling requirements and to support those suffering from redundancies. Indeed, some sectors may need support beyond the rates relief due, and others essential to our economy such as food supplies and logistics, may need specific assistance.

“The Welsh Economic Resilience Fund is one model which should be explored in terms of assistance for businesses beyond just rates relief.”