Northern Ireland news

People who missed out on spend local cards to get money in direct bank payment

Economy Minister Gordon Lyons promoting the Spend Local card. Picture by Hugh Russell
David Young, PA

People who missed out on Stormont’s high street vouchers through no fault of their own are to get the money through a direct payment to their bank.

Economy Minister Gordon Lyons has outlined the plan to compensate those who were unable to avail of the £100 spend local card.

All householders across Northern Ireland were eligible for a pre-paid card to spend in local shops under one of Stormont’s flagship post-Covid economic stimulus policies.

More than 1.4 million pre-paid spend local cards were sent out, resulting in a £136 million spend in the economy.

Despite the deadline to use the cards being extended a number of times late last year, some people were not been able to spend the money, because of issues including postage delivery failures, technical problems in activating the cards or administrative mistakes by the Economy Department.

Giving evidence to his scrutiny committee at Stormont, Mr Lyons said he recognised the frustrations encountered by those people.

“It’s not possible for us to reopen the card scheme to print more cards and everything else, that won’t be possible,” he said.

“So what we will be looking at instead is a direct payment through the Bacs system payment, so that people can be compensated in that way.

“And I hope that they will use what they receive for the purpose that was intended, that they will go out and support those local businesses.”

Mr Lyons insisted the overall scheme was a success.

“We do need to recognise that the scheme was a huge success,” he told MLAs.

“And speaking to businesses and individuals right across Northern Ireland it has been welcomed and I think that it’s right that that is recognised.

“I know some people tried to argue the point that this in some way simply just replaced Christmas spend.

“That wasn’t the case because when I speak to businesses they said that they were busier than they have been in many, many years.”

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