FSB chief: It is vital that New Deal for NI funding is used to invest in skills and economic development

A statement from Roger Pollen:

Thursday, 4th March 2021, 7:30 am
It is welcome that the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, seen outside 11 Downing Street yesterday before delivering his budget to MPs, has extended furlough. But increased employer cost will make the scheme prohibitive for many. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Going into yesterday’s budget, our key message to the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, was to continue to support jobs and the self-employed.

It is therefore welcome that the furlough scheme has been extended, given that it currently supports more than 100,000 jobs in Northern Ireland

While the extension is appreciated, the increasing employer cost from July onwards will make the scheme prohibitive for many, as businesses already tell us that the current level of employer contribution is creating intense financial pressure.

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Letter to the editor

The broadening of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) to those more recently self-employed and the announcement of a fifth SEISS grant is crucial for those who have been among the most impacted by the economic fallout of Covid.

Tourism and hospitality businesses have borne the brunt of coronavirus restrictions, and have not been able to harness the benefit from the reduced rate of VAT which was previously granted to the sector, as their doors have largely been shut.

The extension of a reduced rate of VAT for a further 12 months will be important as this key sector gets back on its feet.

Extension of the reduced rate of VAT was one of the key asks which FSB included in our Budget submission to the Treasury ahead of the Budget.

The government should ensure that the broadest range of tourism and hospitality businesses can benefit from this reduced rate.

The planned increase in Corporation Tax does cause concern, however the introduction of a Small Profits rate may limit the damage from the introduction of this policy, and we will have to study the detail of the ‘super deduction’ for business investment to analyse the overall implications of this policy intervention.

While the chancellor outlined further rates relief for businesses, these measures apply to England only, however the Barnett Consequentials which flow from this decision will provide more funding for the Northern Ireland Executive to support businesses properly through appropriate rate relief. We will be engaging with executive ministers on future rate relief for businesses in Northern Ireland.

It was encouraging to hear that the first allocations have been made as part of the £400 million ‘New Deal for Northern Ireland’.

It is vital that this funding is used properly to invest in skills and boost economic development.

Roger Pollen, Head of Federation of Small Businesses, Northern Ireland

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