Sinn Fein Finance Minister Conor Murphy announced details of the financial aid hours after British Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a £330 billion cash boost to help businesses across the UK that are being caught up in the devastating effects of COVID-19.
Mr Murphy said: “This is a fast-moving situation but I want to provide businesses here with as much certainty as I can, as quickly as I can. I am therefore introducing emergency measures to reduce the cost of rates on businesses at this very difficult and uncertain time.
“All businesses will pay zero rates for the next three months. This rates holiday will save businesses £100m. I am also deferring the issuing of rates bill from April until June to help businesses with short-term cash flow.”
But Joanne Stuart, CEO of the North of Ireland Tourism Alliance, said urgent action must be taken to stop the loss of thousands of jobs across the tourism, retail and hospitality sectors.
They have been warned by the deputy Chief Medical Officer in England that some of the strict restrictions being put in place might remain for up to a year.
Some of the North of Ireland’s biggest tourist attractions have already fallen victim to the measures being put in place to slow the spread of Covid-19.
The Clipper Race and the Foyle Maritime Festival scheduled for Derry this summer have been scuppered over the pandemic.
Derry City and Strabane District Council has shut its offices and leisure centres to the public.
Said Ms Stuart: “I think the extra money for businesses that has been announced by the Chancellor is to be welcomed, however, many of the measures being put in place in England do not apply here in Northern Ireland.
“We would call on Conor Murphy to act swiftly to ensure that the money being made available to the devolved nations is used to mitigate the effects of coronavirus as quickly as possible.“Tourism, hospitality and retail are already being affected and while the £100m rates holiday is a step in the right direction, it is too little, too late.
“It also does not address the cash flow issues that businesses are experiencing now, money needs to be made available now because the biggest cost in tourism, retail and hospitality is staff, so businesses need money now to enable them to continue to pay wages.
“I’m disappointed the Chancellor didn’t mention that in his speech.
“However, I do welcome his announcement that he has set up a committee for business and economy.
“We would want to see either the Finance Minister or Economy Minister on that so the views of the business community here are represented.”Tags: