NIIRTA Issues ‘Wake Up Call’ To Businesses Ahead Of Council Mergers

The association representing the North’s independent retailers have issued “a wake up call” to Tyrone businesses ahead of transfer of new powers to 11 new ‘super councils’.

The Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) have warned that the devolution of new powers to the Omagh Fermanagh, Mid Ulster and Strabane Derry councils, makes the new local authorities “big players” in economic development.

Speaking on Thursday, during a whistle-stop tour of Omagh, NIIRTA chief executive Glyn Roberts said with the formal transfer of powers
such as planning, car parking and economic regeneration on April 1 2015, “It’s crucial for the business community to engage in this election
and question the candidates”.

The chief executive was in town to launch NIIRTA’s new 80 point manifesto of policies for the new authorities.

Among the key recommendations of ‘Local First’ is a ‘belt and braces’ town centre first policy, restructured chambers of commerce, a shop vacancy strategy and the introduction of free town centre WI-FI by 2020.

NIIRTA also wants to develop 3,000 new independent retailers across the North by 2020. “What we are trying to do in our document is put forward solutions to politicians and candidates in what we want the new councils to do,” said Mr Roberts The chief executive said the association also want to see the establishment of a local growth partnership featuring Further Education colleges, banks and chambers of commerce.

“Business start-up is going to be a key part of this new council, those powers are transferred from Invest NI,” he said. “We want to see this new council very target driven with regular targets set for new start businesses and we want a proper vacancy strategy to address the vacancies in town centres.”


Mr Roberts accepted that the new responsibilities represent “big challenges” for councillors and council staff, but affirmed that “big opportunities” are also being presented.

“They need to be making sure they are as user friendly as possible for new start entrepreneurs. If someone has a business idea, they will come and facilitate them and help them.

“That’s why I think it’s important that the business community take these elections very seriously. They are equally, if not more important than the Assembly elections.

He continued, “The business community has to engage, scrutinise and question candidates. I think this is a crucial time over these next two
months. Because these guys will be powerful players and the business community cannot afford to ignore them.”


One of the major issues for businesses ahead of the merging of local authorities is the impact of rates convergence. Last year the Executive approved £30 million for a transitional relief scheme to mitigate the negative impact of rates.

The details of how the scheme will be rolled out is still not 100 per-cent clear. But Mr Roberts said NIIRTA is satisfied that businesses won’t pay
more under the merger. He said there are more concerns about the re-valuations of rates by the Department of Finance next year.

“If a business finds the rates revaluation increases their rates, the last thing they want is the local council adding to that. We’re quite satisfied that at least in the reorganisation businesses won’t pay more, but the rates revaluation has to be about supporting small businesses,” he stated.


Download the NIIRTA Local First policy here.