Charity shops hit back at call for rates breaks cut

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Charity shops representatives have hit back at calls to scrap rates breaks for charity shops in Derry city centre.

The Charity Retail Association insists that charity outlets are not to blame for the deterioration of trade on the high street after a Derry trader said small independent business could not compete with charity shops paying no rent and no rates. Peter MacKenzie, who owns Bloom’s Cafe at Stable Lane, said this week that dealing with the “problem” of presenting Derry as a “charity shop city” is one of a range of measures that must be adopted to reverse city centre decay. He added that charity stores - which are currently exempt from paying rates “need to pay the same as everybody else” to make it possible for traders to compete.

However, the Charity Retail Association has hit back on behalf of its members. A spokesperson told the ‘Journal’: “Charity shops are keeping the high street alive in many areas, and with vacancy rates in town centres running at 14% in Northern Ireland, the last thing we want to see is charity shops closing down because they lose their rate relief. Charity shops are not responsible for the problems on the high street. They remain very popular with the public, and their rate relief supports them to raise more than £200m for a huge range of charitable causes every year UK-wide.”

There are currently more than 130 shops vacant in the city centre with more than 50 closures in recent times, prompting fears for the very future of trade in the city centre.