Leading NI trade groups unite to outline action plan on cost of doing business crisis

Is the popularity of pound shops falling?

Leaders of 15 business organisations have issued a joint statement outlining need to "alleviate crippling pressures"

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23 August 2022 | 0

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Fifteen of Northern Ireland’s leading trade organisations have come together to publish an action plan aimed at tackling the looming cost of doing business crisis that is affecting thousands in the region.

According to the coalition, as a knock-on effect from the cost-of-living emergency, businesses are seeing a fall in trade and customer levels. Coupled with raising inflation, a workforce crisis across the sectors, and remaining Covid pressures, many within hospitality and retail are struggling to remain viable with businesses shutting up shop every day.

Actions within the plan include:

  • VAT to be reduced to 17%.
  • Reinstate the reduced Tourism/Hospitality VAT rate to support businesses that rely on household discretionary disposable income and tourism spend.
  • Restoration of the Business Rates Holiday which concluded in July 2022, running until April 2023.
  • A UK-wide reform of the business rates system to ensure online and out of town businesses are paying the same rate as high street businesses.
  • Support from the UK Government for the devolved nations to reduce business rates by providing increased financial support through the block grants.
  • The removal of VAT from energy bills to reduce energy costs.
  • The Northern Ireland Executive to establish a Rural Town and Village Infrastructure Investment Fund to ensure our small and mid-sized towns and villages are supported during this economic crisis.

The action plan has been co-designed by Retail NI, Hospitality Ulster, Londonderry Chamber of Commerce, Bangor Chamber of Commerce, Ballycastle Chamber of Commerce, Ballymena Chamber of Commerce, Banbridge Chamber of Commerce, Belfast Chamber of Commerce, Causeway Chamber of Commerce, Lisburn Chamber of Commerce, NI Takeaway Association, Newry Chamber of Commerce, Newtownards Chamber of Trade, Omagh Chamber of Commerce, and Portadown Chamber of Commerce.

The leaders of the 15 business organisations issued a joint statement outlining the urgent need for action.

“We are at a critical juncture as a perfect storm of factors is causing devastation for the retail and hospitality sectors and could see thousands of businesses threatened over the next months if no action is taken,” the statement read.

“Out of control energy bill increases, labour shortages, inflation, National Insurance increases, and sky-high business rates – the highest in the UK – are risking the business climate of Northern Ireland,” the leaders added. “Fears that many will simply go under in the next months without government assistance are keenly felt and we cannot continue on this path of destruction any longer.”

They added that the pressure to raise prices to keep up with these costs is “pushing customers away” and causing “a detrimental impact on trade and consumer confidence”.

Calling for intervention from the UK government alongside “the limited powers of NI Executive Ministers,” they highlighted that their plan has “achievable, tangible solutions that would support business from day one.

“Actions including a reduction in the VAT rate to 17% to encourage more households to spend on the high street; increased financial assistance through the block grant to alleviate the cost of business rates; and the implementation of the NI High Street Taskforce Report will help bolster business back to viable trading levels.

“We call on both governments to consider our proposals and engage with the business community on how best to implement urgent actions that can alleviate these crippling pressures,” the organisations concluded. “It will support both businesses and consumers in this most pressing of times.”

 

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