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Commenting on the NI Budget, Michelle Greeves, President of Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce said: “Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce welcomes the NIO’s decision to continue the Small Business Rate Relief scheme – it is imperative that we continue to support and attract new and existing small businesses as much as possible – they make up the very fabric of our towns and cities. And whilst no rate increase is ever welcomed – the 1.5 per cent increase in business rates we feel is much more acceptable than the suggested 10 per cent – an increase like this would have been extremely detrimental to businesses.

“In line with our Belfast Manifesto, we also welcome the £200 million additional budget for infrastructure allowing major projects such as the York Street Interchange project to move forward.

“Belfast and indeed the rest of Northern Ireland needs a world-class sustainable transport system if it is to achieve the growth that is planned in future years.

“We would also urge the NIO to help move on the completion of the Ulster University campus in Belfast. This project is of major importance to our members and the entire business community of Belfast as we look forward to the 15,000-plus students and staff living, studying, working and socialising in our capital city and the investment and regeneration this will bring. Any further delay in this scheme is delaying the growth of Belfast.”

Michelle concluded: “We as a Chamber urge our local elected representatives to get back round the table to agree on a strategy for the growth of our economy as quickly as possible.”