02/10/2013

Ministers Discuss Finance Challenges Within NI

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton MLA and Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster MLA have met with the Business Secretary of State the Rt Hon Dr Vince Cable to discuss access to finance challenges within Northern Ireland.

The roundtable discussion was arranged by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills as part of the Secretary of State’s visit to Northern Ireland, and was also attended by representatives of the NI banking and finance industries.

The discussion focussed on a range of issues, including what banks and others are doing to encourage Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) to invest and grow; the availability of other forms of finance, including the level of awareness amongst the business population; and the participation in Her Majesty's Government (HMG) and Northern Ireland schemes for SMEs.

Mr Hamilton said: "As the first signs of recovery get stronger we need a banking sector that can provide the lending necessary to finance the new investment and working capital that businesses need to grow. Demand for finance has been low up to now but as it increases this issue becomes even more pressing.

"Today was an excellent opportunity for us to set out our situation to the Business Secretary and to look forward to how the Joint Ministerial Working Group on Banking and Access to Finance that is to be created to consider a tailored response to Northern Ireland’s needs will operate."

Arlene Foster said: "The issue of Access to Finance remains one of the most pressing issues for SMEs at this time. It is more challenging here than other parts of the UK due to a number of factors, such as the structure of the banking sector and the collapse of the property market in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It is vitally important that businesses can access affordable finance to help them grow and prosper.

"My Department, through Invest NI, has developed an Access to Finance initiative which will provide a continuum of funding from £1,000 to £2million to ensure that businesses with growth potential are not held back due to a lack of finance."

(CD/IT)

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