Finance Minister Mervyn Storey today introduced legislation in the Assembly to allow enhanced rate relief to be provided to struggling community amateur sports clubs.
The new enabling powers will allow the Department to put community sports on the same footing as community halls by granting 100% rate relief to unlicensed club premises and associated sporting facilities. The practical details will be consulted upon over the coming weeks to allow those affected by the changes to have their say. 80% sport and recreation relief will remain for those clubs that have bars and catering.
Mervyn Storey added: “I welcome the Committee’s support of this short but important Bill, as well as their work in highlighting issues of competition between sports clubs and local bars, restaurants and hotels. I believe the proposals I am bringing forward strike the right balance in protecting local commercial interests and supporting the inspiring work that our amateur sports clubs do in our local areas.”
The Minister went on to explain another new policy he is taking forward: “This Bill also contains a new measure, suggested by a local businessman which will disregard the commercial use of window displays in empty shops to allow the shop to continue to be treated as vacant for rating purposes.
“This is a novel but modest initiative, which compliments other rating policies here. These include, the empty shops rates concession – which has helped 525 new ventures set up since 2012; a standard empty property rate of 50%, compared to 100% in England and Wales and 90% in Scotland; a regional rate freeze and the extension of small business rate relief for at least another year.
“All of these local measures have enabled the rating system to play its part in addressing the high levels of vacancy found in many of our towns and cities.”
The Rates (Amendment) Bill is currently scheduled for accelerated passage and second stage today with the aim of reaching its Final Stage in the Assembly at the start of February and Royal Assent shortly thereafter.