Londonderry Chamber of Commerce president Philip Gilliland has hit out at the Northern Ireland Assembly over the high levels of rates imposed on businesses here.
Mr Gilliland said: "We cannot ignore the crippling burden represented by the business rates, which is felt severely by many businesses in the current financial environment. Some of these have become insolvent, with the rates bill the deciding factor in business closure. This is particularly true for retailers, which in many cases are competing against online-only businesses that are either avoiding business rates, or else have located themselves to minimise their rates liabilities. We urge the Northern Ireland Assembly to conduct a fundamental review of the system of business rates with the objective of creating a fairer and more sustainable tax burden on business.
"It should be remembered that Derry City Council is responsible for just one part of the rates bill that must be paid by businesses and home owners. The Northern Ireland Assembly levies the regional rate, which this year will increase by 2.7%."
Mr. Gilliland also commented on the announcement of a domestic rate increase set by Derry City Council this week.
"We congratulate Derry City Council on setting a district rate with an increase which is - at 1.98% - below the rate of inflation. We are also very supportive of the City Council contribution to City of Culture year and recognise the costs this involves. Investment in Templemore Sports Centre is also to be strongly welcomed, as is the council's capital programme in general. Derry City Council has made important strides forward in controlling costs at the City of Derry Airport and this has assisted in keeping the rates increase down," he said.