£2m not enough for our re­tail­ers: Con­nolly

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

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.”

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