Massive rates hikes, some rising by 300 percent, could deal a fatal blow to local businesses, an Upper Bann MLA has warned.
Jo-Anne Dobson revealed that a five times increase in appeals were lodged by local businesses against their recent rates bills.
Figures contained in an Assembly Question Mrs Dobson tabled to the Finance Minister 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.
Mrs Dobson said: “Many Lurgan businesses have been hit hard by sharp hikes in their rates bills and without help will struggle to pay this additional levy.
“Trends appear to be emerging with petrol station forecourts and small businesses located on the edge of town being amongst those hardest hit. 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.
“These figures show that in increasing numbers local business owners are formally requesting a review of the Net Annual Value of their property.” Mrs Dobson has written to the Finance Minister on behalf of each company who has approached her because this issue raises serious concerns about local jobs and investment.
“Given the sheer volume of appeals being lodged with LPS I am concerned that the process will become drawn out and have written to the Minister to request that additional personnel are brought in to ensure this doesn’t happen.”
“It would be a fatal blow to our economy if these sharp shocks become fatal blows to small businesses – that will inevitably lead to lost investment and lost jobs. What the Minster must remember is that a business which ceases to trade following unprecedented financial pressure cannot pay any rates at all.”