Northern Ireland’s leading trade organisations have today published an action plan aimed at tackling the looming cost of doing business crisis that is affecting thousands in the region.
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 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, Portadown Chamber of Commerce and Retail NI.
In a joint statement, the leaders of the 15 business organisations said:
“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.
“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. 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.
“We are pushing customers away due to having to raise prices to keep pace with these rising costs, which is therefore having a detrimental impact on trade and consumer confidence.
“Intervention is required by the UK Government, as well as the limited powers of NI Executive Ministers, to stave off the worst of this crisis on business owners and provide tangible support and resources that could keep trade viable.
“Our 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. It will support both businesses and consumers in this most pressing of times.”
View the action plan here Cost of doing business document