Business

Extension of business support mechanisms 'critical' says Chamber survey

NI Chamber chief executive Ann McGregor

IF government support schemes aren't extended beyond their current closure dates of March and April, two in five Northern Ireland businesses say they will make staff redundant.

Nearly a third (30 per cent) will cut hours for workers, while 23 per cent will reduce operations and 20 per cent will reduce or cancel investment plans.

The findings come in a survey of 116 firms by the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, and largely mirror those of its UK parent organisation BCC.

More than half (54 per cent) of those surveys have seen sales contract in the last three months, and a third say have less than six months before they run out of cash.

NI Chamber chief executive Ann McGregor said: “While business have been very supportive of the need to prioritise public health during the pandemic, they have paid a heavy price for 11 months of restrictions.

“Firms are desperate to start trading again so they can boost revenue and start thinking about the future. To do so they need to see a clear, evidence-based plan for reopening safely.

“Until the economy can open fully, an appropriate level of business support must remain in place, so a decision from the UK Government about the extension of the furlough scheme is required urgently, because to end it prematurely in April could have enormously damaging consequences in terms of redundancies, reduced staff hours and cutting back on operations.”

She added: “In tandem, businesses, employees and investors need sight of a robust overall economic recovery strategy. One that is pragmatic and practical, but which also grasps the opportunities which we have unique window of opportunity to capitalise on.”

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Business