Business groups discuss extending rates relief with First Minister and Deputy First Minister

The Chief Executives of Belfast Chamber, Hospitality Ulster and Retail NI have this afternoon spoken with the First Minister and deputy First Minister to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on their members and to urge the Executive to expand the rates holiday for businesses experiencing the greatest impact on trade as a result of the pandemic.

Speaking after the meeting, Glyn Roberts, Simon Hamilton and Colin Neill said, “We welcome the First Minister and deputy First Minister taking the time our of their hectic schedules to hear from us about the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic and the necessary restrictions being placed on businesses to help stop the spread of the coronavirus is having upon our members.

“We took the opportunity to urge the Executive to extend rates relief beyond the initial 3 months and to do so in a targeted way that gets help to those businesses and sectors hardest hit.  It is clear that many businesses will be either closed or severely limited in their operations by social distancing for some time to come and it simply isn’t right to issue rates bills to businesses that face such impediments.  We warmly welcome the news that Ulster University are working with the Department of Finance to develop a targeted rate relief scheme.  This is exactly what we have called for and look forward to that work producing a positive result soon.  We also reiterated the need to expand the grants to businesses with multiple sites and for the introduction of an emergency support fund to help those many businesses who have not been able to avail of either of the grants schemes.

“COVID-19 is a public health emergency which is also adversely affecting our entire economy and some sectors in particular.  We appreciate that the Executive have a huge challenge on their hands in charting a pathway back to normality and we pledged to work with Ministers to in the weeks ahead especially around developing guidance to allow for proper planning as we move towards recovery”.