Statement in Response to Northern Ireland Retail Consortium Claim

03 October 2011

Following the claim made by the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium that the Large Retailer Levy will only help ‘banks, betting and boozers’, Colin Neill, Chief Executive of Pubs of Ulster said:

“The comments made by the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC) only serve to demonstrate the organisation's lack of understanding and consideration of the real issues facing businesses in Northern Ireland.  It is clear that the NIRC is merely a veil for the large supermarkets to hide behind in order to fight the proposed increase in rates.  It is also clear that the strings of the NIRC are being pulled by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) in London - highlighting the organisation's detachment from Northern Ireland and its issues.

“As everyone knows, this is a difficult time for all businesses, but especially small businesses.  Our recent survey of pubs across Northern Ireland has highlighted the real state of the pub industry here, with 210 pubs in Northern Ireland currently seeking to sell their business and a further 120 pubs anticipating closure.  This is a fact that the NIRC has completely failed to realise.  The NIRC has also failed to comprehend that pubs are legitimate small businesses that already pay a significant social levy, which supermarkets do not.  This alone puts pubs under significant financial pressure.  Not only that, but they have has also failed to realise and understand the role pubs, and the wider hospitality sector, play in our local economy, with pubs alone employing over 35,000 people and generating £1 billion pounds for the local economy each year.  This contribution cannot go unrecognised or unsupported which is why the extension to the Small Business Rates Relief scheme is vital.

“We would question the analysis undertaken by the NIRC in relation to evidence they have claimed to have seen from a government department.  We would also call into question the timing of this release given that NIRC Director Jane Bevis is giving a key note speech to the Retail NI conference this coming Wednesday.  The NIRC should not be attempting to influence the consultation on the issue which is currently still live until mid-October.”