Business owners across Armagh are being urged to review their draft rates valuations for 2015.
Councillor Thomas O’Hanlon was speaking after the public meeting organised in the Market Place Theatre this morning.
Councillor O’Hanlon explained: “This morning we hosted representatives from over sixty businesses across Armagh at a public meeting in the Market Place Theatre.
“They genuinely fear what is coming down the track if the rise in ‘Net Rentable Value’ transfers across to a similar rise in business rates with some telling harrowing stories of rises from 30-40% and some even saying their draft valuations see a rise in the region of 200-300%.
“People genuinely fear for the future viability of their businesses if these figures are anything to go by.
“What was also very striking was that some businesses were telling us that they had planned to expand their business next year and this process has put a stop to that, effectively this policy is costing jobs, it’s stopping investment and hurting our economy.
“When this process was announced by Stormont, it was hailed as an effort to rebalance the rates burden from small – medium sized businesses in town and city centres to the larger and out of town retail parks, it was to encourage our businesses to stay in the heart of towns.
“However what we heard this morning was scary, it showed us that those who are likely to feel the pinch most are those in our rural towns and villages in places like Keady, Markethill, Tandragee and Poyntzpass. This policy, if not challenged, will put livelihoods at risk and it could force many of our small and rural business out of business.
“What was most shocking of all was that the current draft valuations were arrived at by a desk-top study, nobody actually came out and looked at the business premises concerned, all was done on a computer modelling system and it seems to have got the whole thing badly wrong.
“The message is very clear from LPS and I would reiterate it, if you think your valuation is wrong, as we believe many are, then businesses and property owners must challenge them now. Land and Property Services will come out and visit your property and carry out an in-depth valuation.
“The last time this exercise was carried out was in 2001 and the new valuations are based on what you would expect to receive if you rented out your property.
“The new draft property valuations are available via the LPS website or contact any of my SDLP Colleagues and we will be able to point you in the right direction and assist in your communication with LPS. But the message is very clear; if you don’t challenge the rates valuation then you could face a hefty rates rise.”