‘Increasing rates and putting up parking charges would harm local businesses’

Lisburn city centre. Pic by John Kelly
Lisburn city centre. Pic by John Kelly

Lisburn Chamber of Commerce has said it has serious concerns about the content of a briefing paper released recently by the Department of Finance.

The briefing paper on the Northern Ireland Budgetary Outlook 2018-2020 suggests several potential options for raising revenue, including increasing business rates, ending the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme and putting up on-street car parking charges in towns and cities.

Reacting to the suggestions contained in the document, Lisburn Chamber’s recently-elected President, Evan Morton said: “The option to raise revenue through increasing rates would have a detrimental effect on our members, many of whom face the burden of increasing overheads across the board.

“In addition, the Chamber totally opposes any prospect of increasing car parking charges as city centre retailers will simply lose customers to out of town centres with their attraction of free parking.

“The Department of Finance needs to go back to the drawing board and come up with proposals that will improve business prospects, not severely hinder the many local businesses that make up the backbone of our economy.”

Retail NI has described several elements of the department’s briefing paper as “completely unacceptable”, with the organisation’s Chief Executive, Glyn Roberts saying: “We are completely opposed to several of the revenue-raising options put forward in this paper in relation to the Regional Rate, Small Business Rate Relief Scheme and car park charges.”

However, the Department of Finance has stressed that “no decisions have been taken” and that “it will be for Ministers to decide on the way forward.”