MLA calls for rates rescue package pilot

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SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood has called for a rates rescue package for small and medium sized businesses in Derry centre following a series of high profile closures.

Mr Eastwood has urged Finance Minister Simon Hamilton to introduce a two-year trial period of rates relief in an effort to reverse the recent trend of business closures and facilitate business growth and job creation in the city centre.

The SDLP MLA has written to Mr Hamilton, expressing the dire need to safeguard the future of business in Derry city centre.

Mr Eastwood said: “Many businesses in Derry city centre are on their knees with a crippling portion of their expenditure devoted to paying rates. In the recent weeks, months and years, we have witnessed long-standing enterprises in the city fall one by one as they lost the battle to survive. Vacant premises and properties occupied by organisations exempt from paying rates currently litter Derry city centre.

“The first revaluation since 2001 is currently underway with rates readjustment due next year but much more will be needed to enable business in Derry city centre to flourish.

“I have written to Finance Minister Simon Hamilton - whose department is currently drafting the new rates bills for next year – to take the steps necessary to fuel the city centre economy. I am calling for a 50% cut in non-domestic rates for small and medium sized enterprises in Derry city centre on trial basis.

“Such a pilot rates relief scheme can be a catalyst in the economic regeneration of our city centre. It would safeguard the future of many businesses, facilitate the creation of new businesses, fuel job creation and breathe fresh life into our city centre.”