There have been calls for the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme to be extended, after it emerged that over 800 businesses benefitted from the scheme in the Banbridge District Council area, saving them £1.6million.
John McCallister MLA, Independent Unionist for South Down urged the Executive to ensure that the scheme continues.
Mr McCallister said: “829 small businesses in the Banbridge area have saved £1.6million since 2010.
“This has resulted in many small enterprises staying in business and investing in the future.
“It means our town and village centres, such as Banbridge, have stayed vibrant where they might have become emptier, and it has kept local people in employment.
“Of course there is still much more to be done and I would love to see our once thriving town centres coming back to life with new businesses starting up.
“It is often said that SMEs make up the backbone of our economy, but they also have real social benefits - they are often the glue that keeps our towns and villages together. There are clear economic and social benefits to the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme.
“The Minister for Finance and Personnel has consulted on extending the scheme which was originally paid for by the large retail levy.
“This levy is due to end in March 2015, but I believe there is a clear case for extending small business relief into the future.
“There is a financial crisis at Stormont and many funding streams are being cut, however, this is an economically and socially productive scheme.
“An FSB survey carried out in June 2014 found that 47% of respondents used the rate relief to stay in business. Non-domestic rates are often the highest cost element for a business, after wages and rents.