Busi­ness ‘cor­ner­stone of the econ­omy’, says Chan­cel­lor Ham­mond

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - News - BY MAR­GARET CAN­NING

NORTH­ERN Ire­land busi­ness­peo­ple have wel­comed a speech by Chan­cel­lor Philip Ham­mond at the Con­ser­va­tive Party Con­fer­ence in which he de­scribed busi­ness as “the cor­ner­stone of the econ­omy”.

But the North­ern Ire­land Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try also said the Chan­cel­lor needed to go fur­ther to pro­mote busi­ness in his Bud­get later this month — which they said was “an op­por­tu­nity to de­liver bold ac­tion to boost in­vest­ment and con­fi­dence”.

And Glyn Roberts, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Re­tail NI — who is at­tend­ing the con­fer­ence at Birm­ing­ham, in­clud­ing a break­fast re­cep­tion hosted by the DUP to­day — said he had used meet­ings at the event to press home a mes­sage that North­ern Ire­land is “open for busi­ness”.

“De­spite the fact that we have no de­volved govern­ment it is im­por­tant that we are here to press home the wider point that North­ern Ire­land can be the best place in the UK to shop, live, so­cialise and start a busi­ness,” he said.

The North­ern Ire­land branch of the Fed­er­a­tion of Small Busi­nesses (FSB) is also at­tend­ing the event from to­day. Roger Pollen, head of ex­ter­nal af­fairs, said: “We have a strong FSB NI team at the Con­ser­va­tive Party con­fer­ence this week, with a busy sched­ule of en­gage­ments in the di­ary.

“Cru­cially we will be seek­ing to dis­cuss our idea of mak­ing North­ern Ire­land an ‘en­hanced eco­nomic zone’ with key UK Govern­ment fig­ures.

“This pro­posal, if im­ple­mented, would have a trans­for­ma­tive im­pact on the NI econ­omy and un­lock a point of grid­lock in the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions.”

NI Cham­ber chief ex­ec­u­tive Ann Mcgre­gor urged the Chan­cel­lor to “pull out all the stops to get busi­nesses in­vest­ing and grow­ing” fol­low­ing his speech.

She said the Govern­ment needed to im­prove the ar­eas which were within its con­trol, in­clud­ing skills, train­ing and in­fra­struc­ture, call­ing for the go-ahead for city deals for Belfast and Lon­don­derry — a mea­sure re­garded as a cat­a­lyst for re­gen­er­a­tion.

“In terms of North­ern Ire­land specif­i­cally, a green light on city deals for Belfast and Lon­don­derry would be an ex­am­ple of an ac­tion that the Chan­cel­lor should take in his upcoming Bud­get,” she added.

“Busi­nesses also re­quire in­cen­tives for in­vest­ment and we urge the Chan­cel­lor to con­sider an in­crease in in­vest­ment al­lowances as a mat­ter of pri­or­ity.”

Dur­ing his speech, Philip Ham­mond has pre­dicted a “deal div­i­dend” which could fund tax cuts and pub­lic ser­vice spend­ing once a Brexit deal is reached.

Mr Ham­mond’s fore­cast came as he called on Con­ser­va­tives to stand “four-square” be­hind Theresa May as she en­ters the fi­nal weeks of ne­go­ti­a­tions ahead of a hoped-for deal in Novem­ber.

Stephen Kelly, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Man­u­fac­tur­ing NI, said the Govern­ment needed to re­pair its re­la­tion­ship with busi­ness due to the lack of progress over Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions.

“Ul­ti­mately the govern­ment needs busi­ness to de­liver Brexit for it and there’s no doubt that Brexit and the way that the govern­ment has han­dled talks has dam­aged re­la­tion­ships be­tween busi­ness and politi­cians,” he said.

Speech praise: Philip Ham­mond

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