£2m not enough for our retailers: Connolly
THE government should go beyond a £2m funding injection in yesterday’s Budget to help retailers hit by the fire at Belfast’s Primark, it’s been claimed.
And there was also disappointment after funding for a Belfast City Deal was announced at £350m, instead of the anticipated £450m.
Aodhan Connolly, head of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, said the government needed to do more to help other shops in the surrounding area cope with the fall-out of the fire at Bank Buildings, which has led to a collapse in footfall of around 50% in parts of the city centre.
Mr Connolly said the £2m “falls short of expectations”.
Richard Ramsey, Ulster Bank chief economist, said that while Northern Ireland retailers would not benefit from the move to cut rates bills for small retailers, they could get some satisfaction from digital services tax.
“Competition from tech giants has adversely affected many high street retailers,” he said.
“The Exchequer has been impacted negatively too by the growth of these companies and the lack of tax revenue stemming from them.
“This has led to the planned introduction of a new digital services tax — a 2% tax on the revenues they earn from UK users.”
Sean Lavery, partner and head of tax at BDO Northern Ireland, welcomed the commitment of £350m for the Belfast Region City Deal, as well as news of discussions for a deal in the north west.
But Sinn Fein West Belfast MP Paul Maskey said the funding for the Belfast Region City Deal had failed to live up to expectations, and added that it was “disgraceful” that nothing concrete had been announced for the north west.
Economist Andrew Webb, director at Baker Tilly Mooney Moore, said the projects which should benefit under the Belfast Region City Deal needed to be carefully selected.
“It is now imperative that the projects that come through the ringer and get funded are really focused on making a significant local impact — this is meant to be a once in a generation injection opportunity,” he said.
“It would be a lost opportunity if we end the City Deal period with the same poverty and social exclusion issues as we start it with.”
And Ashleen Feeney, director at business advisory firm KPMG, said: “We welcome the announcement that the UK government will contribute £350m towards the ambitious Belfast Region City Deal, the first City Deal in Northern Ireland.
“We also welcome that formal negotiations will now commence on Derry-londonderry and Strabane Region City Deal.
“The progression of all NI City Deals is critically important in assisting to address the region’s infrastructure deficit and productivity gap, and also ensuring inclusive economic growth.”
Calling City Deals “a smart approach to supercharging economic growth”, she added: “Today’s announcements are significant for Northern Ireland and offer a once in a generation opportunity.”