Muir: Rates relief welcome, but more assistance needed

Alliance MLA and Finance Spokesperson Andrew Muir has welcomed the decision to extend rates relief for all businesses until the end of July, and the full financial year for key sectors hardest hit by the pandemic, but also called for much more assistance beyond rates relief to help both people and businesses get through the economic crisis and impending recession.

He said: “Whilst a significant cost and a blunt tool the decision on business rates relief is welcome and gives some reassurance to businesses many of whom in my constituency and beyond would simply have been unable to pay any bills issued.

Rates relief alone will not however suffice in supporting people and businesses to get through the economic crisis and impending recession. A full understanding of the size and affordability of Economic Recovery Plan from Economy Minister is therefore essential to ensure we can fund a robust tailored medium term package of support not just involving rates relief but ranging from significant investment in skills and new Grant support such as a Business Suspension Fund for those sectors still unable to operate due to restrictions still applying and assistance with costs and downturn in trading that will arise from Social Distancing requirements.

“This is a pandemic that yes, will pass, but will have lasting economic consequences and we need to think about the impact and pressure on our workforce, especially the younger generations, who will be facing challenging times and greater unemployment in the future. Now is the time to be assessing and acting on what employers will need, with consideration to wage subsidies and apprenticeship incentives going forward.

“Further more detailed assurances must also be given on how the Finance Minister intends to address the concerning financial over-commitment which has grown from the rates relief extension and other measures in today’s statement.”