Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Scrapping industrial rates scheme here ‘will cost Northern Ireland jobs’

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Stephen Kelly

Scrapping a scheme which reduces rates for thousands of manufacturers here “will cost jobs”, it’s been claimed.

And soaring costs, such as international shipping more than doubling along with rising wage bills, is putting major pressure on the sector.

Manufacturers also say that the removal and industrial derating – a scheme which is under consideration be scrapped which allows a 70% discount in rates for firms – will see jobs lost.

“It will cost jobs, plain and simple,” Stephen Kelly, chief executive of Manufacturing NI, told Ulster Business.

“Some manufacturers, because of the physical nature of their premises, need large spaces. They pay more than other sectors because of their scale. If the relief was removed, manufacturers would pay three to four times more than any other part of the economy.”

Other challenges include shipping container costs, according to Alan Lowry, chairman of the FSB and head of Environmental Street Furniture.

“Shipping a container from here to one of our customers in the Far East cost about $3,000 not so long ago but at one stage it went to about $18,000,” he said.

Some factors behind the high costs of business in NI are unavoidable. Manufacturing and engineering companies that trade globally will be impacted by wars in Europe, the Middle East and concerts over China.

“That’s stopping international buyers from being confident to make big investments,” Stephen Kelly of Manufacturing NI says. “We’re seeing a significant downturn in engineering sectors that are globally focused, particularly since the start of 2024, which has resulted in labour demand drifting away.”

Manufacturers also attribute high costs to government policy: what Stephen Kelly describes as a “never-ending barrage of policy costs” across everything from climate change to waste.

Read the full feature in the June edition of Ulster Business

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