BUDGET: What business leaders said . . .

Kirsty McManus

:: Kirsty McManus, national director, Institute of Directors Northern Ireland - With a pot of £70m for SMEs through the British Business Bank, there is much to cheer for local business leaders. The additional expenditure now available to the Executive is a shot in the arm for the local administration but it is incumbent now on ministers to deliver on the incredible potential it presents, with a focus, through targeted investment in key services and infrastructure, on ensuring this region is fit to capitalise on the green recovery.

:: Ann McGregor, chief executive of NI Chamber - While the Budget contains some measures which will help economic recovery, an expected inflation rise of 4 per cent means trading conditions are going to remain very challenging. We welcome additional funding for the region via the block grant and await with interest to see how businesses here will benefit from it. It is important that commitments to rates relief for hospitality and leisure businesses are extended to businesses in Northern Ireland.

:: Hospitality Ulster chief Colin Neill - We welcome the freeze on alcohol duties, which is a recognition of the difficulties faced by the sector, but rising food and energy costs need to be addressed urgently. Hopefully the Stormont Executive will also follow Mr Sunak's lead on business rates relief.

:: Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts - Giving independent retailers in England a 50 per cent rates discount is a welcome announcement, but it is absolutely vital our finance minister now ensures this fully applies to eligible small traders in Northern Ireland. We have a perfect storm coming our way with a national insurance hike and huge increases in energy prices. Both will add to the considerable burden of many business owners.

:: Roger Pollen, head of FSB Northern Ireland - The lower rate of duty on internal UK flights will serve as a boost for connectivity between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. The reform of alcohol taxes and a fuel duty freeze will be particularly welcome for certain sectors. Vital too is expanded funding for the British Business Bank, which will mean £70 million of investment for SMEs. But it was disappointing the government has not yet taken steps to reduce the cost of employment. Our call for an increase in the employment allowance to £5,000 would have made a real difference to efforts to increase wages, retain staff and create jobs.

:: Londonderry Chamber chief executive Paul Clancy - The Budget puts the ball firmly in the court of local ministers, and it's important they follow the lead of the Chancellor and cut business rates in Northern Ireland, especially for struggling sectors like hospitality and retail. It's crucial now that the NI Executive, with a new three-year budget process in place, gives businesses, workers and consumers the certainty and support they need by allocating these substantial funds to help create jobs, prosperity and economic growth.

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