Business relief scheme does not go far enough – retail body

A relief scheme for businesses announced by Stormont does not go far enough, a retail organisation has said.

Finance Minister Conor Murphy announced that a grants scheme for businesses will be rolled out across Northern Ireland after receiving an additional £200 million from the Treasury.

It comes ahead of four weeks of further restrictions aimed at curbing the soaring numbers of coronavirus cases.

Grants will range from £1,600 for small businesses to £2,400 for medium businesses and £3,200 for the largest businesses for every two weeks they are closed.

Coronavirus – Wed May 6, 2020
Coronavirus – Wed May 6, 2020

Applications will open on Monday.

It is an extension of the Localised Restrictions Support Scheme which opened for businesses in Derry City and Strabane District Council area on Wednesday.

Businesses covered will include cafes, pubs and restaurants that have been temporarily forced to close or limit their services to a takeaway service instead.

Close contact services in or using commercial premises such as hairdressers and barbers, beauty salons, day spas, nail bars and tattoo parlours forced to close are also included.

Mr Murphy said the intention is to be “as flexible as we can”.

“We’re not going around checking if shutters are down and doors are closed,” he said.

“We’re recognising that people should continue to provide services where they can, but clearly not against the regulations that have been brought forward.

“We’re hoping that that is the approach taken in relation to job support and we’ll continue to have that engagement with the Treasury.”

The minister said some businesses may feel excluded and said he has asked his Executive colleagues to urgently bring forward proposals for the sectors that they have direct responsibility for.

But Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts described the scheme as “disappointing”.

Executive Financial Support for Business Doesn’t Go Far Enough – Retail NI

— RetailNI (@retail_ni) October 15, 2020

“It is disappointing that this scheme offers no effective help to those businesses in retail and the wider supply chain that will have to close as a result of a loss of trade, footfall and consumers,” he said.

“The closure of hospitality will be a hammer blow to our local high streets and we need the Executive to step up and assist businesses who are impacted.

“We hope that the Executive will go a lot further than this limited scheme.”