Retailers welcome Kwarteng budget but warn business rates holiday is vital

Retailers welcome Kwarteng budget but warn business rates holiday is vital

Retailers in Northern Ireland have welcomed the reversal of the National Insurance increase announced in Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s Mini Budget but warned that a business rates holiday is urgently needed to save high street businesses.

The Chancellor announced that the recent rise in National Insurance tax would be reversed from 6 November and the planned rise in corporation tax from 19% to 25% has been cancelled.

VAT-free shopping for overseas visitors will be brought in and planned increases on alcohol have been cancelled.

New low tax investment zones will be set up in England where tax cuts and liberalised planning rules to be offered to release land for housing and commercial use.

Reacting to the Chancellors statement, Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said: “We welcome that the Government is to reverse the National Insurance increase which will provide some relief to local independent retailers who are struggling with the cost of business crisis.

“Retail NI will engage with the Secretary of State for NI on how the Investment Zone proposals could apply to Northern Ireland, particularly in town and city centres that have high levels of dereliction and are in need of further support.

”We are disappointed that no funding assistance from Treasury has been allocated to allow a business rates holiday to be introduced locally. If we are to stand any chance of saving local high street businesses and protecting jobs, it is vital that a rates holiday is urgently introduced.

“Lowering VAT rates should also have been included in this statement, rather than focusing on stamp duty and corporation tax.

“The UK Government needs to go a lot further in supporting our local high streets and we will continue to press for further measures.”

Ann McGregor, Chief Executive, Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry said businesses would welcome the Chancellor’s pledge to focus on economic growth.

“Inevitably, the devil will be in the detail of these proposals, but they must strike the right balance between tackling immediate pressures, driving reform and providing for a sustainable future,” she said.

“Moves to target certain business costs, including reversing plans to increase corporation tax and national insurance are welcome interventions at a time of critical need. Reversing the planned increase in corporation tax will be crucial for local firms competing on the island of Ireland in particular.

“But today’s announcement just underlines the need for a restored Executive to respond in parallel to protect businesses and unlock sustainable growth locally.

“We need an Executive that can take urgent action on priority issues like reforming business rates, tackling the productivity gap and transforming the planning system to enable green growth. That, combined with resolution on the NI Protocol will help restore much needed business confidence.”