Government asked to fund 12-month rates freeze

Group of mostly British retailers eyes hiatus for shops, leisure and hospitality businesses

A group comprising most big British retailers in Ireland has written to the Government requesting it follow the UK government in suspending commercial rates for shops and other businesses.

The retailers warn that if “immediate action” is not taken on the issue, “there is likely to be a considerably smaller sector left at the end of the pandemic”.

The Retailers Rates Action Group, which includes operators such as River Island, Iceland and B&Q, laid out its request in a letter to Local Government Eoghan Murphy. Commercial rates are paid to local authorities who are, ultimately, overseen by his department.

The group, with more than 50 members, has asked for a 12-month hiatus on commercial-rates payments for all shops, leisure and hospitality businesses, including their warehouses and distribution centres. They want it to be backdated to the beginning of the March 13th lockdown period. This would require a refund for some businesses that made six-monthly payments in January.


The group is also seeking a further 50 per cent reduction in commercial rates for six months following the requested 12-month suspension period, to allow businesses “restore their financial security”.

“Clearly the threat of coronavirus needs urgent and decisive action to be taken to support the retail sector in these unprecedented times,” stated the letter, which was sent to the Minister on the headed paper of group member Primark.

“Without the support requested above in this letter, there is no doubt that a lot of retail businesses will be lost.”

Earlier this week, however, Dublin City Council chief executive Owen Keegan said the city could not afford a rates suspension.

Retailers Rates Action Group, which also includes companies such as Monsoon Vue Cinemas and JD Sports, was founded in the UK 18 months ago to pressure the government there to reduce rates. In Ireland, it includes Arnotts and Brown Thomas which are owned by UK retailer Selfridges.

In his budget last week British chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak announced a 12-month rates suspension for all retail and leisure businesses with a rateable value of less than £51,000 (€55,000).

On St Patrick’s Day, the retail group wrote to him requesting an extension of the measure to save jobs in bigger employers. Later the same day, Mr Sunak announced that the rates suspension would be extended to all retail and hospitality premises.

Mark Paul

Mark Paul

Mark Paul is Business Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Caveat column