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Business Rate Relief

Volume 453: debated on Tuesday 28 November 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of the impact of extending business rate relief to sub-post offices in Northern Ireland on (a) equality and (b) targeting social need. (104126)

Analysis was undertaken in 2004 and 2005 regarding the introduction of a rural rate relief scheme for Northern Ireland to include support for rural post offices and shops. This analysis was directed at small properties below the (then) levels applicable in GB of £6,000 net annual value and the cost was estimated at £1.6 million. It was not possible to establish how much of this £1.6 million was attributable to post offices because a significant number of them are categorised by the Valuation and Lands Agency as ordinary shops.

Preliminary results of the Equality Impact Assessment and New TSN analysis were unfavourable, with the high likelihood of adverse differential effects occurring at local level. Furthermore, the assessment concluded that such a measure would do little or nothing for rural shops in Northern Ireland. It was decided not to implement the rural rate relief scheme in Northern Ireland because the scheme which applies in the rest of the UK is based on designated rural areas which would be inappropriate for Northern Ireland’s dispersed rural settlement pattern.

The case for providing small business rates relief will be re-examined during 2007 and this will include consideration of sub-post offices.