A Derry small business owner is vowing to fight all the way before forking out for what he calls a “crazy” £25,000 rates bill.
Edward Kearney said paying the bill would mean closing his business, The Bag Boutique in the Richmond Centre, with the loss of seven jobs. He told the ‘Journal’ that the cost of his rent for the store is less than the “unbelievable rates bill”.
He is now vowing to fight it all the way, adding: “In the worst case scenario, they’ll bankrupt me.
“There’s no way I can hand them £500 every week for nothing in return. I don’t mind paying a reasonable amount,” he said.
Mr Kearney said that neighbouring stores and shops with much larger floor spaces than his store were paying only a fraction of what he’s been asked to fork out. “There’s a shop in Shipquay Street the same size as mine which pays just £4,000 while there’s another on Shipquay Street which has nearly five times the floor space of my store and the bill is £12,000. It’s crazy. All I want is a level playing field for everyone but any time I try to discuss it with the rates office I’m told that is the cost and it can’t be changed. They don’t care if businesses survive or not, as far as I can see.”
Martin McCrossan, Chair of Derry City Centre Traders Forum, which is calling for rates relief in for the city centre, said the plight of Mr Kearney was being endured by many independent retailers. He added: “Rather than see seven people out of a job, I’d like to see someone from the Department of Finance sit down with Mr Kearney and discuss a solution to the problem. Finance Minister Sammy Wilson announced last week that a re-evaluation of non-domestic rates (unchanged since 2003) will not take place until 2015, stating that it cannot wait any longer.”
SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan said the Executive needs to do much more to help small indigenous businesses.
“Mr Wilson’s announcement is far too little, far too late. Many of the traders who are struggling with crazy rates bills at the minute won’t be around in 2015. Mr Durkan added that the “much heralded small business rates scheme had proven ineffective in terms of boosting the fortunes of small business in Derry.
“There’s been a lot of talk in recent times about the damage being done by out of town shopping centres but the real killer for town centres is crippling rates.”