“Extend rates relief to save jobs and restart economy”: business groups urge Executive
The jobs and livelihoods of thousands of workers and the future of the firms that employ them depends on the extension of the rates holiday for the businesses worst affected by the coronavirus pandemic. That’s the message that three of Northern Ireland’s leading business groups are sending to the Northern Ireland Executive.
In a joint statement, Retail NI, Hospitality Ulster and Belfast Chamber Chief Executives, Glyn Roberts, Colin Neill and Simon Hamilton said:
“Everybody appreciates that the COVID-19 pandemic represents an unprecedented public health emergency. We all regret the loss of so many loved ones to this horrible virus and stand in admiration at the commitment of health and social care workers who stand on the frontline in the fight against COVID-19.
“What we can all appreciate too is that as well as damaging people’s health, COVID-19 is damaging the health of our economy. Day in and day out, we speak to our members, many of whom have had the doors of their businesses closed for near on a month without any income. We listen as they tell us about the legitimate fears they have for the future of their firms and the livelihoods and wellbeing of their staff. And we hear how many of them are hurting like never before.
“We support the Executive in their discussions this upcoming week on how we get our society and the economy on a path back to normality. We have welcomed the support that our Executive has thus far offered businesses. It is greatly appreciated. But it is clear that restarting our economy will necessitate further support for many businesses.”
“That’s why we have come together to speak with one voice on behalf of the thousands of businesses we represent and the many more people from every part of our region that they employ to call on the Executive to follow the example of elsewhere and extend the rates holiday beyond the initial three months.”
“Targeted, rolling support is needed now and, given the fact that this crisis is going to leave a lasting legacy, the level and duration of any support needs to last as long as is required. We know the pressures that the public purse is under during this challenging period but, equally, businesses are facing unfathomable difficulties now and will do for some time to come. We would encourage the Executive to do so on the basis of a ‘triage system’ that provides support those businesses in retail, hospitality and other sectors that have been hit the hardest and who need it the most to survive.”
“With the Scottish Government now deciding to extend its Small Business Grants to each qualifying property rather than business, we also ask that the Executive ensures that Northern Ireland’s Small Business Grant Scheme is brought into line with those elsewhere in the UK. This, and other gaps in our support schemes, need to be addressed.
“It is no exaggeration to say that many of our members will not survive this crisis unless they receive the further support and that includes a rates holiday reviewed on a rolling basis. Lots of businesses will face restrictions and perhaps even closure for some time to come. Even when they are able to trade, it will take some time to get their business going again and get to the position where they would be able to pay a rates bill at all. We implore the Executive to listen to this plea and act upon it urgently”.