Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland rates relief scheme could be extended

Simon Hamilton
Image caption Simon Hamilton said he believed the scheme had been successful

A scheme set up to help Northern Ireland businesses in the recession could be continued beyond its 2015 end date.

The move was announced by Finance Minister Simon Hamilton.

The Small Business Rates Relief Scheme was started in 2010 in response to the downturn and offered some firms 20% or more discount on their yearly bills.

When launched, it was said it would cost the executive about £8m annually and help upwards of 16,000 businesses.

Mr Hamilton is to shortly begin gathering evidence on its impact before making a decision.

"I think the scheme is a successful one," he said.

"But I want to gather the evidence of its effectiveness before making a recommendation for any extension or modification in future."

Meanwhile, he has announced the continuation of another initiative which began helping builders after the property crash.

The scheme, which gives rates relief on empty homes built speculatively during the boom, is to be extended by 12 months.

He said although the market is improving, "the imposition of rates on builders holding stocks of unsold houses will not help the recovery of the construction industry in Northern Ireland".

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