‘Clear wins’ for NI plc, but it’s only the start
THIS Budget is to be welcomed by the retail and wider business community in Northern Ireland.
While we haven’t got everything we pushed for, funding for the Primark fire, City Deals and an air passenger duty (APD) working group are clearly wins for Northern Ireland plc.
It also shows the importance of the business community’s engagement and setting out its stall at Westminster and at the Conservative Party Conference.
Retail NI has been extensively lobbying at Westminster for measures to address the Primark fire aftermath and adding our voice to the call for City Deals for Belfast and Londonderry.
Along with our colleagues, Hospitality Ulster and Manufacturing NI, Retail NI published our joint ‘New Deal for Northern Ireland’ at one of the biggest ever Northern Ireland events at the House of Commons, at which we called for action on business rates, City Deals, infrastructure investment and APD.
While the Budget announcement of £350m for the Belfast City Region Deal falls short of the £450m which is needed, it is nevertheless a step forward for what is an ambitious plan, which has the potential to deliver 20,000 jobs.
It must also be the catalyst for a huge programme of town and city centre regeneration in that area.
We were one of the first business organisations to call for City Deals for Belfast and Derry and are pleased to see them both progressed in the Budget.
Retail NI will be seeking urgent clarification from the Government that the proposed business rates relief reduction outlined for independent retailers in England will apply here.
Rates reform is absolutely critical to the future of the economy.
Many small traders we represent are struggling to pay their rate bills and we are calling for the largest ever rate relief of £100m to support our town and city centres, to ensure small business owners can reinvest more of their own money into growing their busi- ness and employing more staff.
We believe that economic policy now needs to be rebooted, with a stronger focus on reforming business rates, infrastructure investment, skills and urban regeneration.
This Budget moves us towards this rethink.
In the 18 months since the last Executive met, the world and the economy have moved on.
An entirely new and radical approach is now needed to address the huge challenges facing Northern Ireland as we approach Brexit.
The Secretary of State needs to clarify what the extra £320m in this Budget for the Northern Ireland Executive is going to be spent on, given that we have no Executive.
Is it Karen Bradley or David Sterling we need to talk to?