31/01/2020

Business Chiefs Demand Govt Intervention For Local Firms

A network of business organisations representing every size and sector of business across Northern Ireland has demanded government action on the big issues facing local firms.

The Chamber of Commerce Network throughout Northern Ireland, which has an influence over almost every town and city in the region, is urging the NI Executive to "act in a cohesive way and start making big decisions on the issues facing business".

Business chiefs demanded that ministers progress the sub-committee on Brexit and the Independent Fiscal Council as a priority and also called for action across a range of issues including infrastructure, business rates, skills and exports.

A statement issued following a Chamber Network meeting said: "The group welcomes the return of an Executive at Stormont, however we now strongly encourage Ministers to act in a cohesive way and start making big decisions.

"They must start tackling the barriers to business growth immediately whilst also ensuring the quick implementation of the sub-committee on Brexit and the Independent Fiscal Council."

The Chamber Network believes it is uniquely placed to understand the challenges facing all businesses in Northern Ireland, no matter their size, sector or location.

On business rates, representatives believe the current system stymies growth rather than encourages it.
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"If businesses spend money to improve their working environment they are penalised in the form of higher rates," the group commented.

"The system requires a thorough review in order for it to provide certainty, simplicity and equity in how it is applied."

Further investment in skills is a further area requiring government invention if businesses are to continue to secure jobs and investment.

On exports, the group says a strategy to help indigenous businesses scale up and grow must be implemented urgently.

"Trade and export is key to economic growth however Northern Ireland's export base is small and heavily dependent on a few large firms," the representatives added.

Infrastructure was identified as one of the biggest issues raised by members who believe that Northern Ireland's infrastructure is suboptimal.

"There is a lack of delivery of key projects and our road networks are not well maintained. Whilst the 'New Decade, New Approach' deal outlines a number of welcomed projects that will benefit all parts of Northern Ireland, the conversation must now move to how we finance and prioritise these projects in order to get them progressed."

In conclusion, the Chamber Network said: "The commitment to a revised Programme for Government brings with it an opportunity to create a new Economic Strategy for Northern Ireland, one that addresses skills challenges, low export figures and the broken rates system for example. The Chamber of Commerce Network stands ready to play its part in this process."



(JG/CM)

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