City Business Leaders Unite to Call for More Urgent Support Amid Fears Belfast Businesses are Losing Out
Belfast Chamber and the three Business Improvement Districts in the city – Belfast One BID, Destination Cathedral Quarter BID and the Linen Quarter BID – have come together to highlight to Belfast’s elected representatives the particular impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the city’s economy and to stress to MPs, MLAs and Councillors the need to urge the Government and, in particular, the NI Executive the need to target future support for business to those businesses that have been forced to close to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The four business groups have pointed out to the city’s elected representatives that some of the support measures introduced to assist businesses deal with the impact of the pandemic aren’t helping many businesses in Belfast because of the use of the rateable values as an eligibility criteria. Analysis indicates that whilst approximately 22% of business across Northern Ireland will be eligible for the £10,000 grant, in the city centre, as few as only 16% of businesses will meet the criteria.
Commenting, Belfast Chamber Chief Executive Simon Hamilton said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has already had a hugely negative impact on Belfast’s economy with many businesses understandably forced to close because of Government decisions aimed at stopping the spread of the virus and saving lives.
“Whilst that has resulted in a massive drop off in footfall in the city centre, we support those measures and welcome the support that Government and the Executive have introduced to date.
“However, some of the measures because of the way they have been constructed are disproportionately not helping businesses in Belfast. Far fewer businesses in Belfast get Small Business Rates Relief than elsewhere across the region and, thus, won’t be entitled to the £10,000 grant. Furthermore, the use of a Net Asset Value of £51,000 as a qualification for the £25,000 grants scheme has meant that many businesses in Belfast have not been eligible for this much needed support even though they have been instructed by Government to close and similar businesses in other parts of the region are getting the grant.
“Belfast city centre has endured a tough few years. We have been trying hard to recover from the devastating impact of the Bank Buildings fire and are now having to contend with COVID-19.
“On behalf of our members and levy payers, we are asking the city’s elected representatives to urge Government and particularly the Executive to consider additional interventions to support businesses like those in Belfast who have been forced to close and cease trading but are not going to be able to avail of some of the support that has been introduced thus far”