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Senior rates officials to be told huge rises ‘unacceptable’

Land and Property Services will be called to task on Monday during a meeting to discuss rates revaluations which have the potential to force local businesses to shut up shop.

Huge rises in bills have been experienced in some areas and, for many, they are making local businesses and entrepreneurs consider whether they can continue to operate.

Sinn Fein’s three Newry and Armagh MLAs – Megan Fearon, Cathal Boylan and Conor Murphy – are to meet with Land and Property Services on Monday to discuss the huge rates hikes a number have been hit with.

They will meet with senior rates officials, including the Land and Property Services (LPS) Director of Valuations to discuss the non-domestic rates hike.

Conor Murphy said the meeting was following on from a guarantee Sinn Fein gave during the recent Westminster election.

“One of the big issues on the doors during the election campaign was the massive increase in non-domestic rates a number of businesses across the constituency have received and the effect these astronomical increases are going to have,” he said.

“In their Rebalancing Business Rates document, Land and Property claimed that rates increases in the constituency would be marginal, ranging from around 0.5% to around 1.7%

“The feedback we have been getting from right across the constituency would indicate that this is not the case, with increases on certain businesses ranging anywhere from 50% to well over 100%

“This will put enormous pressure on home-grown businesses with a worrying number of people telling us that they will have no choice but to either cut staff of close down altogether.”

Megan Fearon said the effects of such hikes would be felt well beyond the businesses directly affected.

“If these increases go ahead they will have a devastating effect, firstly on businesses, but also on the wider communities these businesses are located in,” she said.

“These rates increases would be a fatal blow to rural businesses in south Armagh, where the loss of a number of services, as well as the differences between sterling and euro, have already caused numbers coming into the area to fall.

“Business owners have told us that these huge increases mean they would either have to lose staff or close down completely and the loss of just one job in a rural area has a devastating knock-on effect.

“We will be making very clear to LPS that these increases are simply unacceptable.”

Cathal Boylan said the hikes would affect businesses right across the district.

“Over the course of the election campaign we collected a sizable portfolio of businesses that had been hit by these increases,” he said.

“As well as demanding answers on how projected increases could have been gotten so disastrously wrong, we will be presenting this to LPS to and asking them to investigate each and every one.”

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