Independent report claims BT makes £655m contribution to Northern Ireland economy

All BT's customer calls are now handled in the UK, including at its centre in Enniskillen
All BT's customer calls are now handled in the UK, including at its centre in Enniskillen

THE dominance of BT as an employer and economic generator in Northern Ireland continues to grow, with the group responsible for generating £1 in every £60 produced in the region's economy, an independent report says.

The economic impact study, carried out every two years by Hatch Regeneris, shows that the communications company generated a £655 million contribution to the north's economy during the 2019/20 financial year.

That compares with £432m in 2015/2016 and £592m in 2017/2018, and is part of £24 billion in gross value added (GVA) the telecoms pumps into the wider UK economy.

In Northern Ireland, the firm directly employs 2,900 people, with a further 436 employed as contractors.

But when extrapolated out further, it supports 7,270 jobs through other indirect contributions, including spending £155 million in the supply chain.

And by sector, BT Group - which last year made a pre-tax profit of £2,353m on revenues of £22.9 billion - now employs one in every four employees in IT and communications in the north.

Business group CBI's regional director Angela McGowan said: “This research demonstrates the extent to which BT continues to have a massive impact on our local economy and jobs and its significant presence here.

“Its investment in the area not only means a boost to the local economy, but also to skills and high quality jobs, including recruiting apprentices and graduates.

“BT’s investment in the fastest networks and latest technology is also vital for the region as well as the fact that it is a large purchaser for local supply chains. Its success is based on smart investments in both technology and people.”

Mark Dames, BT Group's head of public affairs for Northern Ireland, said: “I’m immensely proud of the contribution our colleagues make in supporting the local economy.

“At an important time for our region, our spending on people, networks and suppliers, provides a vital economic boost. The wider impact of that spending helps to sustain communities and small businesses right across Northern Ireland.”

Last year BT revealed that it was cutting its estate from 300 offices to just 30 over the next five years as part of UK’s largest workplace consolidation and modernisation programme, with Belfast's Riverside Tower being chosen as one of the first eight locations for a new "workplace of the future" hub.

Last week BT unveiled plans to recruit more apprentices and graduates in Northern Ireland for its September 2021 intake while its Openreach digital network business said it plans to hire more than 100 new apprentice engineers by the end of March.

Employees from across the group, including Openreach, EE and Plusnet, have played a key role in keeping the region connected during the pandemic.

This includes providing critical support to the NHS, SMEs via its Small Business Support Scheme and school children by offering unlimited broadband and mobile data, free and mobile data, and free wi-fi vouchers to popular online education sites.

Meanwhile BT’s consumer contact centres now handle all customer calls in the UK from centres including Enniskillen, and last year dealt with 34 million customer calls.