Northern Ireland’s leading trade organisations have urged the UK and Northern Irish governments to take urgent and radical steps to head off an economic crisis which could see thousands of companies fail.
In an open letter the organisations spelt out the action they believe needs to be taken to tackle the looming cost of doing business in a crisis that is affecting thousands in the region.
They warned as a knock-on effect from the cost-of-living emergency, businesses are seeing a fall in trade and customer levels. Coupled with raising inflation, a workforce crisis across the sectors, and remaining Covid pressures, many within hospitality and retail are struggling to remain viable with businesses shutting up shop every day.
The 15 organisations said: ““We are at a critical juncture as a perfect storm of factors is causing devastation for the retail and hospitality sectors and could see thousands of businesses threatened over the next months if no action is taken.
“Out of control energy bill increases, labour shortages, inflation, National Insurance increases, and sky-high business rates – the highest in the UK – are risking the business climate of Northern Ireland. Fears that many will simply go under in the next months without government assistance are keenly felt and we cannot continue on this path of destruction any longer.
“We are pushing customers away due to having to raise prices to keep pace with these rising costs, which is therefore having a detrimental impact on trade and consumer confidence.”
The letter added: “Intervention is required by the UK Government, as well as the limited powers of NI Executive Ministers, to stave off the worst of this crisis on business owners and provide tangible support and resources that could keep trade viable.
“Our plan has achievable, tangible solutions that would support business from day one. Actions including a reduction in the VAT rate to 17% to encourage more households to spend on the high street; increased financial assistance through the block grant to alleviate the cost of business rates; and the implementation of the NI High Street Taskforce Report will help bolster business back to viable trading levels.
“We call on both Governments to consider our proposals and engage with the business community on how best to implement urgent actions that can alleviate these crippling pressures. It will support both businesses and consumers in this most pressing of times.”