Derry’s businesses can’t pay rates bills

editorial image

More than 450 of last year’s business rates bills remain unpaid in the Derry City Council area, it’s been revealed.

As of April 15 some or all of rates debt for last year was still outstanding for 469 non domestic properties in the city area. For the same period no payment had been received in respect of 210 of those properties in arrears.

The figures were released by Finance Minister Sammy Wilson following an Assembly question from Derry MLA Mark H Durkan.

Mr Durkan said the figures only served to further the case of Derry business leaders who are calling for the introduction of some form of rates relief and the creation of a special enterprise zone in the city. “This answer provides evidence, as if it was even needed, that businesses in Derry are struggling to pay their rates bills.

“While the Minister has offered this information, it does not even scratch the surface of the hardship and stress facing other businesses in the city that are struggling to pay their rates.”

And the SDLP assemblyman criticised the Executive’s recent attempts to offer rates relief for some struggling businesses.

“The Small Business Rates Relief Scheme was, in my opinion, a headline grabbing stunt that offers no real respite even to those who qualify for it, let alone those with bigger premises and much bigger rates bills that don’t qualify.”

Minister Wilson has committed to conducting non-domestic revaluation in 2015 but Mr Durkan has said that is “ridiculously late”.

“More needs to be done and much quicker. The sad fact is that many more shops across Derry will be forced to bring their shutters down by that time.”

Mr Durkan said he firmly supports the idea of an enterprise zone in order to alleviate the hardship stifling economic growth in Derry.

He has also called on the government to explore other ways of generating money, “such as placing a levy on supermarkets who sell alcohol rather than continually squeezing the smaller indigenous businesses.”