Business groups unite to warn Executive of economic cost of another lockdown
8 business organisations from across Northern Ireland have come together to implore the Executive to resist placing the local economy in another lockdown again, fearing that doing so, without the same degree of financial support available earlier this year, will result in business closures and job losses.
In a joint statement, Belfast Chamber, Causeway Chamber, Derry Chamber, Hospitality Ulster, Manufacturing NI, Newry Chamber, NI Retail Consortium and Retail NI said:
“We are all well aware of the huge challenge before the Executive as it continues to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. Equally, it has been a really tough time for businesses in many sectors of our economy with both employers and employees facing into an uncertain future.
Throughout the crisis created by COVID-19, businesses have stepped forward and played their part. We understand how Ministers may have to introduce additional measures to help in the fight against the virus however, we have come together to ask that they carefully consider the impact that each of their actions have on businesses and their staff and we especially implore you to resist placing our economy in any type of lockdown again.
It is absolutely clear that the Executive does not have the financial firepower to offer the kind of levels of support previously available to businesses during the last lockdown. Our fear is that a lockdown without sufficient support for businesses will result in closures and a considerable number of job losses and that devastating economic impact is something we urge Ministers to have at the forefront of their minds.
The Executive has an enormous task but we encourage them to work with business to find solutions that ensure that when we get through this crisis, as we will, we can retain jobs, keep businesses open and have an economy that is strong and capable of growing again”.
A copy of the joint letter sent to the First Minister and deputy First Minister
30 September 2020
Arlene Foster MLA and Michelle O’Neill MLA
First Minister and deputy First Minister
Dear Arlene and Michelle
We hope this letter finds you both well.
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, businesses across Northern Ireland have stepped forward and played their part in combating COVID-19. Whether it was pivoting to produce PPE to help health and care workers, investing millions in their premises to make them safe for staff and customers, remaining open throughout the crisis to serve the public or willingly closing their doors without knowing when they might open and start trading again, firms in every part of our region have not shirked their responsibilities in this crisis.
No one underestimates the magnitude of the challenge facing the Executive as it responds to the virus. The challenge for our economy is an equally daunting one with many businesses facing a very uncertain future.
Whilst we appreciate that Ministers may have to consider additional actions to curb the spread of COVID-19, we, on behalf of the thousands of businesses, who between them employ tens of thousands of people, urge you to carefully consider the impact that each has on business and we especially implore you to resist placing our economy in any type of lockdown again.
We note that the Economy Minister has stated that we cannot afford another lockdown and we agree with this assessment. Forcing businesses to close once again, coupled with the fact that financial support on the scale of that seen earlier this year is unlikely to be made available either by the Government or the Executive, would, in our view, have a hugely devastating impact on the local economy and set recovery back quite considerably.
To be clear, it is our fear that the undeniable consequence of a decision to enter into another lockdown, with no ability to respond financially, would be that many businesses, who have endured the extreme difficulties of the past 6 months, simply would not survive and would be forced to close resulting in a considerable number of job losses.
We do not envy the enormity of the task before you and fully appreciate the importance of protecting public health, but we ask that you keep our concerns in mind so that we can retain jobs, businesses and an economy that is strong and capable of growing again when we have, as we will, come through this current crisis.
We hope that you agree that over the course of this crisis, business has exhibited a willingness to work closely with government and we would once again reiterate a readiness across the key sectors of our economy and in all parts of our region to work with the Executive to find solutions to the problems we face.
Simon Hamilton Stephen Kelly
Chief Executive, Belfast Chamber Chief Executive, Manufacturing NI
Karen Yates Colm Shannon
Chief Executive, Causeway Chamber Chief Executive, Newry Chamber
Redmond McFadden Aodhán Connolly
President, Derry Chamber Director, Northern Ireland Retail Consortium
Colin Neill Glyn Roberts
Chief Executive, Hospitality Ulster Chief Executive, Retail NI