Belfast Chamber calls on executive to examine voucher scheme option

With speculation that the Chancellor is considering introducing a voucher scheme for people to spend in businesses that have been severely impact by the restrictions imposed to stop the spread of COVID-19, Belfast Chamber has called on the Executive to ensure that the region is included in any such scheme or, if not, that one is introduced in Northern Ireland.

Commenting on the idea, Belfast Chamber Chief Executive Simon Hamilton said,“Whilst it is brilliant to see places like Belfast city centre reopening with shops, bars, restaurants, cafes and hotels all trading again, it is clear that footfall is going to be down for some time to come.  As businesses reopen they will start incurring costs again but without the levels of custom they would ordinarily expect and that will place many under pressure.

Other cities and states have tried to address this issue in a very direct way by giving citizens vouchers to spend in hard hit sectors like retail and hospitality.  Vienna, for example, gave every household €50 to spend in local cafes and restaurants. Malta and the Chinese city of Wuhan have done something similar.  With press reports that the Chancellor is considering a voucher scheme, the NI Executive must ensure that if the Government does take such a step then Northern Ireland is either included or follows suit and introduces its own voucher scheme.

There is no doubt that a voucher scheme would bring a much-needed boost for our retail and hospitality businesses.  Many of them have been closed for nearly 4 months.  Footfall will continue to be challenged.  By incentivising spending, a voucher scheme would get help to the businesses that need it most and sustain jobs in the process”