Chancellor’s £70m budget boost for NI business

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to announce a £70 million funding package to help small and medium sized business enterprises (SMEs) in Northern Ireland in Wednesday’s budget.

Monday, 25th October 2021, 10:30 pm
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak. Photo: PA Video/PA Wire

The new fund – which is being delivered by the British Business Bank – will provide loans or investment in local companies to help them to either kickstart activity or to grow their business.

Details on how Northern Ireland business owners can access the fund will be issued in due course.

The Treasury has also said the new initiative will build on “the success of existing funds in other parts of the UK, which have been shown to support the creation of high-paying high productivity jobs and the upskilling of existing workforces”.

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Since the start of the pandemic in the spring of last year, the UK Government has spent £352 billion across the UK on various forms of support.

In Northern Ireland this included more than 284,000 on job protection through the furlough scheme, £118 million in self-employment support, help for local businesses and the procurement of vaccines.

As well as the £70m being made available in Northern Ireland, Scotland will benefit from £150 million and Wales will receive £130 million for the new fund – which the government has described as money that will build on the its “commitment to level up opportunities across the UK”.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “Northern Ireland is a powerhouse of ingenuity and the UK Government is continuing to support small businesses across the country to grow and succeed.

“We’re investing millions of pounds to help thousands of businesses take their next step.”

Announcing the fund, HM Treasury said: “This funding will build on the British Business Bank’s existing programmes in Northern Ireland, working closely with local partners, and will help SMEs in Northern Ireland to invest and grow.

“It will build on the success of existing funds in other parts of the UK, which have been shown to support the creation of high-paying high productivity jobs and the upskilling of existing workforces.”

The statement added: “The fund will provide loans or invest in local companies – this can be recent start-ups looking to borrow smaller amounts to kickstart activity or established SMEs looking for larger investments to grow their business.”

Similar funds made available in England have helped companies such as Local Bio Limited develop regenerative medicines – delivering innovative targeted drugs and stem cells delivery systems to market.

The Chancellor said that “strong investment in public services” will be at the heart of his economy rebuilding plans when he sets out his budget.

Speaking on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Mr Sunak said he would stimulate growth by spending on infrastructure, innovation and skills.

However, he said he did not have a “magic wand” to make rising costs disappear.