Charities claim £5.5m for good causes threatened by rates row

16 Feb 2016     Last updated: 17 Feb 2016

Thirteen charities warned today that a hike in charity shop rates in Northern Ireland could mean they would have £5.5m less to spend on the most vulnerable.

Thirteen charities warned today that a hike in charity shop rates in Northern Ireland could mean they would have £5.5m less to spend on the most vulnerable. 

Charity shops are currently entitled to 100% relief on their business rates, but this being reviewed by the Department of Finance and Personnel at Stormont with the possibility that the relief could be reduced or eliminated.

The 13 charities, headed by Cancer Focus Northern Ireland, British Heart Foundation NI and Cancer Research UK, today launched a new campaign - #MoreThanAShop - calling on Finance Minister Mervyn Storey to ring-fence the rates relief.

They insist that their shops boost local business, provide jobs and help tackle social isolation as well as helping people in need.

One charity estimated that even a 20% rise in its rates would mean they may have to axe potentially life-saving health checks for 1,142 local people.

The #MoreThanAShop campaign is asking the public to show their support by dropping into their nearest charity shop and signing a petition, which will be presented at Stormont in mid-March.

Robin Osterley, Chief Executive of the Charity Retail Association (CRA), said: “Every year the charity retail sector raises around £10.5m for good causes in Northern Ireland including tackling poverty, funding world-leading medical research and running local hospices.

“If our charity shops had to pay full rates, this could mean up to £5.5m would no longer be available to charities to fund their vital life-saving and life-changing work.”

Joyce Savage, Head of Communications and Marketing at Cancer Focus NI, said: “Our shops create jobs, contribute to a thriving high street, and provide 5,400 volunteering opportunities, helping young people to gain important work skills and older people to combat social isolation.

“They also help attract visitors to the high street even during economic downturns, provide good quality products for local people on a budget, and divert over 21,000 tonnes of textile from landfill, saving local authorities very significant sums in landfill tax.

“A 100% rates bill could result in 52% of charity shops closing with 409 redundancies and 1,862 volunteer posts lost.”

She added that while no specific changes to the rates system had yet been announced, research from the Charity Retail Association indicated that even small amendments to the current system would have a huge impact on the wider work of the sector. 

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