The Ulster Farmers’ Union says it “broadly supports” the plans outlined in the review of Northern Ireland’s non-domestic rating system. In particular it has welcomed the continued rates exemption for agricultural land and buildings.
“The agricultural industry is the largest rural stakeholder and employer so it is imperative it is protected to help sustain rural communities,” said UFU deputy president, Barclay Bell.
“The agricultural industry is the largest rural stakeholder and employer so it is imperative it is protected to help sustain rural communities.”Barclay Bell, UFU deputy president
He said the continuation of a rate exemption protected an industry that delivers food security, good environmental management, and was the basis of jobs in food processing.
“We also welcome the recommendation not to introduce a system of Land Value Tax. We feel this would be unworkable and unfair and would ultimately have a negative effect on industry and consumers,” said the UFU deputy president.
The UFU has highlighted concerns about the closure of businesses in towns and villages.
“A trend has developed of high business rates forcing small enterprises out of rural towns. The UFU would like to see this reversed and wants the Department of Finance and Personnel to work closely with district councils to drive the revitalisation of once vibrant rural areas,” said Mr Bell.
Another point raised was banking services, and people finding they are inconvenienced by the centralisation of services.
“This has left rural dwellers at a disadvantage, forcing them to travel long distances to undertake vital tasks. With many banks having closed in rural towns ATMs are often the only way to access cash and perform basic banking functions. Against this background we would like to see a reduction or exemption of rates for rural ATMs to ensure their continued presence,” said Mr Bell.