More than 1,500 local households are set to appeal against a huge hike in their rates bills, it has been revealed.
Following an assembly question by Upper Bann MLA Jo-anne Dobson, Finance Minister Arlene Foster said more than 1,500 appeals have been lodged in the Craigavon and Banbridge area.
Mrs Dobson said: “Local businesses have been hit hard by sharp hikes in their rates bills and, without help, many will struggle to pay this additional levy.
“Trends appear to be emerging with petrol station forecourts and small businesses on the edge of town being those hardest hit,” she said, adding that she had been writing to the Finance Minister on the issue.
She wants staff and procedures in place to ensure that these appeals are dealt with swiftly and efficiently. “I am concerned that the process will become drawn out.
“Figures contained in an Assembly Question I tabled show that Land & Property Services (LPS) received 1,394 ‘non-domestic’ appeals between 1 April and 31 May this year, compared to 289 in the same period last year.
“For many these rises stretch into thousands of pounds and can mean the difference between taking on a new employee or deciding to expand their business. In some cases, bills have risen by as much as 300 per cent in one year, leaving many to put on hold and reconsider their future plans.
“The rise in appeals shows that increasing numbers of local business owners are formally requesting a review of the Net Annual Value of their property, following the non-domestic revaluation.
“I have written to the Finance Minister on behalf of each trader who has approached me because this issue raises serious concerns about local jobs and investment. It would be a fatal blow to our economy.”