‘Rates are ripping heart out of Rathfriland’ - McCallister

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John McCallister MLA is calling for an urgent meeting with the Chief Executive of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council over the rates revaluation.

The independent Unionist for South Down says the rates revaluation has had a significant impact on traders in the area, and believes there is a ‘real danger’ of towns like Rathfriland of having ‘the heart ripped out of them’.

Mr McCallister called the closure of Stewart and James hardware store, in Rathfriland, a major blow for the town.

He commented: “This is a major blow for Rathfriland and my thoughts are with all Stewart and James employees and Jim and Barbra.

“The rates revaluation process has not been handled well; the period of time from the last revaluation coupled with significant increases in bills for some businesses has put an unmanageable strain on a number of traders - traders who were already finding it tough to survive on the high street.

“I have previously called on the Council to do all it can to support at risk businesses and areas. Towns like Rathfriland are in real danger of having the heart ripped out of them and I will be seeking an urgent meeting with the Chief Executive of ABC Council.

“It is of paramount importance that the ABC Council is running as efficiently and effectively as possible and focusing on keeping town and village centres vibrant and viable.

“I keep going back to the opportunity missed with the monthly bin collections in the Banbridge area. If this scheme was running across the ABC Council we would currently be saving some £1.5million a year. This is money which could be used to target support for struggling businesses transitioning under revaluation.

“This money could be used to keep our town and village centres open – which is in everyone’s interests.

“I will also continue to press the Department for Finance and Personnel to retain significant rates relief for small businesses and retailers.”