LISTEN: Over £200 Million in rates relief for NI businesses during COVID-19 crisis

By Q Radio News and PA.

Stormont Finance Minister Conor Murphy has extended the business rates holiday until the end of March next year for many firms and airports hardest hit by coronavirus restrictions.

The hospitality, tourism and leisure sectors will benefit.

Mr Murphy told the Assembly: "All pubs, hotels, eating out venues, guest houses, camp sites, sports facilities, tourist venues, cinemas, and entertainment venues will pay no rates this financial year."

Retail businesses - small local shops, large departmental stores, both high streets and out of town retail - will pay no rates this financial year.

Childcare providers are also covered.

Conor Murphy

The exception to the rates relief is medium to large food stores and off-licences which have continued to trade, albeit with higher costs, the minister said.

Conor Murphy said: "These food retailers have really stepped up during this period opening their stores, making adjustments to ensure safety for customers and staff and we owe them a huge gratitude."

The minister said he had decided to extend the rates holiday for all businesses for another month until July 31.

He said: "Together, this represents a £213 million rates support package for businesses.

"It brings the total support for businesses from rates relief and grants to over £700 million, demonstrating the Executive's determination to protect livelihoods and jobs."

All pubs, hotels, eating out venues, guest houses, camp sites, sports facilities, tourist venues, cinemas and entertainment venues will pay no rates this financial year.

Mr Murphy said: "The economy is still in the early stage of recovery.

"Businesses and trade unions are still in the process of ensuring that the economy can operate in a way that is safe for workers and for the general public."

Mr Murphy paid tribute to larger food stores and off-licences and their workers.

He said: "These food retailers have really stepped up during this period opening their stores, making adjustments to ensure safety for customers and staff and we owe them a huge gratitude."

He said the viability of childcare providers was severely impacted by their difficulty in maintaining social distancing.

Air passenger traffic has ground to a virtual halt and airline bosses have warned it will be a protracted period before travel returns to normal.

Mr Murphy said: "Our airports will continue to be adversely impacted for a considerable time to come.

"It is vital that they are maintained through this crisis and are still able to function after the pandemic passes.

"That is why Belfast City, Belfast International and City of Derry will also receive 100% rate relief until 31 March 2021."

City of Derry Airport

The Executive will consider whether people can visit immediate family indoors, when it meets on Thursday, First Minister Arlene Foster said.

Ministers have already agreed to ease more restrictions if social distancing is followed.

People who do not share a household can meet outdoors in groups of up to six.

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