A Newry businessman has claimed that a recent revaluation of business rates in the city “have not taken into account the economic challenges that Newry is facing.” Patrick Murdock is the owner of ‘The Hub’ at John Mitchel Place and contends that with a proposed 40 per cent rise in his rates, it will not be possible for him to carry out his business at that location. “We have a small business called ‘The Hub’. It occupies 1500 square feet of accommodation at a first floor level on John Mitchell Place and the rateable value they have come up with is £15,900 of which we have to pay 0.5869 in the pound. That equates to just short of £10k a year in rates,” said Mr Murdock. “The market value of the rent is £7,500. The rateable value and rental value are meant to be aligned – well they have gone in double what the rentable value is meant to be. It means that we have gone from small loss making to high loss making,” he said. Mr Murdock takes in takes in start up businesses and houses them in his premises. He feels that the proposed increased will jeopardize not only the future of his own business, but other fledging enterprises. “We are only a young business. We are 2 years old. We take in start ups. We take in small to medium enterprises in Newry, people starting their own businesses and we house them in our premises – so it is a collaborative office environment for very small micro businesses in Newry. And to do what they have done to us is basically saying “We don’t want you.” At a recent meeting hosted by Newry Chamber of Commerce and Trade which was attended by more than 30 local business representatives, the rates revaluation announced by Minister Simon Hamilton was discussed. President Deborah Loughran said: “Newry Chamber hosted this important meeting between local businesses and Land and Property Services (LPS) to shed some light on what the rates revaluations will mean for Newry businesses. At the meeting concerns were raised by local businesses on increases in their rateable value, many highlighting that the Net Annual Value (NAV) for their businesses do not reflect current market rents.” The Chamber has confirmed that the initial feedback from members is that the new NAV figures for businesses in Newry are substantially higher than the rental market values that prevailed in Newry in 2013. Mr Murdock contends quite simply that what has not been taken into account is the fall in level in rent that property owners can expect to obtain. “The retailers of Newry have not seen any benefit from the fall in rents. Rents have not risen. So there is a conflict between the two sides. The are penalizing anyone in an office building in Newry – it’s blunting pay rises, blunting employment. They are driving offices out of the city centre.” The businessman also makes the comparison between the level of rates which his business is expected to pay and that of a comparable business of a brother of his own in London. “A brother of mine has premises in London with a similar size to mine in Newry and his rates bill is a third of what we are expected to pay in Newry. And this is a wee town in Northern Ireland that is on its knees,” he said. “The point is I think that they have pushed people too far this time. They are in great danger of smashing the golden goose,” he added.
9th December 2014