BELFAST City Council has thrown a financial lifeline to under pressure traders with a rates freeze.
It came after a motion put forward by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to cut the rate by two per cent was defeated by Sinn Fein, SDLP and the Alliance Party.
Sinn Féin said it is the first time ever that a nil increase has been agreed by the council in the striking of the rate.
On Thursday, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) revealed that Belfast trades had lost £15 million in business since the Union flag protest started.
DUP councillor Lee Reynolds said: “The DUP believes that such a cut is achievable while ring fencing for protection key areas such as community services and economic development.
“It offered to work with the other parties over the next two weeks to reach an all-party agreement but this was rejected by Alliance, SDLP and Sinn Féin.
“The DUP also considers it ridiculous that after a City Council decision has set good relations in the city back years that they propose no increase in the Good Relations budget. Now is the time for clear and prompt action not offering people what you were planning to do anyway.”
Sinn Fein councillor Deirdre Hargey welcomed it was the “first time in living memory” a zero rate has been struck.
Added Cllr Hargey: “It is testament to prudent planning and crucial efficiency savings by our Council management and staff.
“The alternative by unionists to introduce a new cuts programme and abandon investment projects would result in job losses, dent confidence in our city and deepen the economic crisis.
“Putting hundreds of council workers on the dole is the last thing we should be doing if we want to help our city through this recession.
“Unionists proposed to committee a ‘cuts programme’ which would be disastrous for Belfast.
“This is a time to invest in the future not to slash and burn.”