16/03/2020

Business Chiefs Demand Executive Support

Sixteen chambers of commerce and business organisations have come together to demand a package of support to help firms deal with the economic impact of coronavirus.

With uncertainty about what measures may be introduced to cope with the outbreak, including limiting the movement of elderly people and other vulnerable groups, many companies are under pressure.

The representatives, including Belfast Chamber, Retail NI and Manufacturing NI, said the Chancellor's provision of a 100% rates holiday in England should be extended to Northern Ireland.

Their plea, addressed to First and deputy First Ministers Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill, read: "We all appreciate that public health is an absolute priority at a time like this, but we would impress upon you the importance of ensuring that businesses are supported to enable them to deal with the impact that COVID-19 will have upon them, too. We all hope that the effect on our economy is short-lived but it is essential that actions taken by government to handle the health emergency don't cause further, avoidable damage to business and, thus, have longer-lasting societal impacts on employment.
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"This is not about business looking for special treatment over and above the health service. The health service should get the support it needs to deal with the outbreak, and the Chancellor gave assurances that it would, but it is vital that, in parallel, business also gets the support it needs so that there will still be jobs to which people can return once this emergency has receded.

"Businesses in our region have weathered many storms over the years. This is, undoubtedly, one of the most challenging sets of circumstances they, and all of us, will have faced. Our plea to you as First Minister and deputy First Minister is to work together as one Executive to put in place a package of essential support so that we can protect people's jobs. We all appreciate the multiple pressures upon the resources that are at the Executive's disposal, but this is no ordinary situation. If we want to be in a position to return to normality as quickly as possible after we have overcome the outbreak of COVID-19, then business requires both leadership and support from our Executive. We simply cannot afford for nothing to be done to help businesses which face a hugely uncertain and problematic period."

Leaders of sixteen business organisations added their signatures. These are as follows:

Ballymena Area Chamber of Commerce

Lisburn Chamber of Commerce

Banbridge Chamber of Commerce

Londonderry Chamber of Commerce

Bangor Chamber of Commerce

Manufacturing NI

Belfast Chamber

Newry Chamber of Commerce & Trade

Causeway Chamber

Newtownards Chamber of Trade

Federation of Small Businesses

Omagh Chamber of Commerce

Holywood Chamber of Commerce

Portadown Chamber of Commerce

Hospitality Ulster

Retail NI.



(JG/CM)


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