On 17 March, Northern Ireland Finance Minister Conor Murphy MLA announced that all businesses in Northern Ireland would pay no business rates for three months from 1 April to support them throughout the Coronavirus outbreak.
This is in clear contrast with what retail businesses in England are facing as they are enjoying a business rates holiday of 12 months – four times longer than that proposed for Northern Ireland. Also, the Scottish Government followed England with the introduction of a 100% full year relief for businesses in the retail, hospitality, leisure and aviation sectors.
The NI Finance Minister had previously acknowledged that this was a “fast-moving situation”, and, as a result, NFDA wrote to him to urge a review of the decision for the retail motor trade to take account of the changed circumstances.
Although the Northern Ireland Executive has so far received an additional £912m from Westminster to deal with the Coronavirus crisis, just £100 million of that has gone on the business rates holiday.
We highlighted that the retail sector will be the key to a strong economic recovery and deserves a longer business rates holiday.
As the picture changes, support for businesses must be adapted accordingly to ensure that they can remain competitive.