The Alliance Party has called for Assembly parties to provide a united front on industrial rates increases.
Party Enterprise spokesperson David Alderdice stated: “It is imperative that the economy play a much more central part in upcoming negotiations between the five main parties, and that we form a united front to get the best possible deal for local industry.
“Specifically, we are calling for an immediate pegging of the industrial rate at 15%, to go no further until we understand fully the impact that has on local manufacturers. Already we have seen manufacturing move out of Northern Ireland because conditions imposed by Government render them uncompetitive. This cannot go on.
“The closure of FarmFed alone has driven £5 million annually out of the local economy in what was already an economic black spot. We are not talking about ‘fat cats’, we are talking about workers and suppliers who are trying to drive a competitive economy but are being marginalized by rating policy and increasing bills at every turn.
“It does not matter what institutions are in place to govern Northern Ireland if there is nothing left to govern. All the parties must be clear on that, and therefore it is in all our interests to get a deal on this as part of the comprehensive package. For as long as our economy is unstable, our politics will be unstable. This cannot continue.
“Local industry is successful, we have profitable firms here. Our manufacturers have no reason to fear fair competition – but they have every reason to fear unfair competition. That is what the Government is intending to impose through setting industrial rates at 100%. This move would be totally counterproductive to the Government’s stated aim of boosting local economic competitiveness. That is why we are calling for clarification from all the other parties that they will pledge to unite in opposition to it.”