FSB calls for more budget focus on the economy

Pictured during a recent meeting with Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry are, from left, John Friel, FSB regional chair, Colin McAuley, CollegesNI and Mr Wilfred Mitchell, FSB NI policy chairman
Pictured during a recent meeting with Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry are, from left, John Friel, FSB regional chair, Colin McAuley, CollegesNI and Mr Wilfred Mitchell, FSB NI policy chairman

Adequate funding for the departments of Enterprise and Employment and Learning must be maintained if the SME sector is to flourish across the province thrive the Federation of Small Businesses has claimed.

Responding to the Department of Finance’s Draft Budget, the body said it had highlighted the need for the budget to be adapted so that it “supports and sustains” small businesses.

The FSB said it welcomed the fact that the economy remained the number one priority but stressed that more funding must be allocated to what it said were the two most economically important departments to ensure small businesses were supported and sustained through skills and job creation.

“While the FSB is aware of the financial difficulties facing the Stormont Executive at this time and we recognise the positive recommendations that have been made, such as the continuation of the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme and the potential of a Northern Ireland Investment Fund, we believe the draft Budget for 2015/16 could be significantly improved,” said FSB NI policy chair Wilfred Mitchell.

‘’The 10.8 per cent reduction being applied to the Employment and Learning budget will have a savage effect on Further and Higher Education provision.

“In order to ensure that we continue to provide skills to match the needs of the economy, this must be addressed in the final Budget.”

Similarly, he said DETI was facing a 15.1 per cent cut with additional allocations solely covering existing commitments.

“Under the draft settlement Invest NI will only have around £6 million to spend on new business in-year.

This will have a hugely negative impact on the support currently offered to small businesses with job creation, R&D, skills support, export assistance and marketing budgets all likely to suffer as a result.’’

“The FSB believes that the Barnett Consequentials from the Autumn Statement (£67 million Resource DEL) should be prioritised towards DETI and DEL to deal with the difficulties within further education, higher education and Invest NI.

“Furthermore, it is also clear that only through agreement on this budget and a wider demonstration that Executive finances are on a secure footing, including progress on unresolved welfare reform proposals, can we secure the devolution of Corporation Tax. The stakes could not be higher.’’