NI big retailers used as 'cash cows'

Published:  25 November, 2011

BELFAST: Retailers including B&Q are being used as "cash cows" by the finance minister says the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC).

It made the comments at a meeting of the finance committee in Stormont on Wednesday about a plan by finance minister Sammy Wilson to have larger firms pay a levy to fund rates relief for small companies.

The minister wants to increase rates for commercial premises with a rateable value of more than £500,000. The Large Store Rates Levy scheme is expected to affect around 75 stores. They will incur an extra cost of £100,000 a year.

The revenue would then fund an extension of the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme. Thousands of smaller traders across the region would then benefit from a reduction in rates.

Representatives from a number of large stores were invited to discuss the issue at the assembly. Jane Bevis, from the NIRC branded Mr Wilson's scheme a "tax on jobs". She said it would mean rates for bigger businesses in NI would be 16 times higher than elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

Dermot Walsh of B&Q said the company simply could not afford to pay any more rates. "It would wipe out our entire profit in B&Q in Northern Ireland," he added.

Mr Walsh said all nine of its stores would be affected unlike supermarkets, which had smaller outlets in town centres.

"We think those companies who can afford to pay more are those that should pay more. Those who can't shouldn't be unnecessarily penalised."

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