Chambers of Commerce network makes collective call for action on issues facing business

30th Jan 2020

A network of business organisations, representing every size and sector of business, across almost every town and city in Northern Ireland, has called on the new NI Executive “to act in a cohesive way and start making big decisions on the issues facing business.”

The Chamber of Commerce network throughout Northern Ireland has also called on the NI Executive to progress its sub-committee on Brexit and the independent Fiscal Council as a priority.

Following a recent meeting of the chamber network, the group commented: “With a chamber of commerce in almost every town and city, we are uniquely placed to understand the challenges facing all businesses in Northern Ireland, no matter their size, sector or location. We therefore met as a network to discuss business confidence and the challenges faced by members within our areas.

“The group welcomes the return of an Executive at Stormont, however we now strongly encourage Ministers to act in a cohesive way and start making big decisions on the issues facing business. They must start tackling the barriers to business growth immediately whilst also ensuring the quick implementation of the sub-committee on Brexit and the independent Fiscal Council.”

The network has commented on a number of business issues that the Executive should prioritise:

On business rates…

“The current rates system stymies growth rather than encourages it. If businesses spend money to improve their working environment they are penalised in the form of higher rates. The system requires a thorough review in order for it to provide certainty, simplicity and equity in how it is applied.”

On skills…

“We need to ensure that we can match the personnel needs of companies with our labour supply. The businesses we represent, from manufacturing to professional services to retail and hospitality, all note this as one of the central weaknesses of the local economy. Further investment in skills must be a priority if our members are to grow and if Northern Ireland is to continue to secure jobs and investment.”

On export…

“We must also urgently implement a strategy to help indigenous businesses scale up and grow. Trade and export is key to economic growth however Northern Ireland’s export base is small and heavily dependent on a few large firms.”

On infrastructure…

“Infrastructure is one of biggest issues raised by our members who believe that Northern Ireland’s infrastructure is suboptimal. There is a lack of delivery of key projects and our road networks are not well maintained. Whilst the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ deal outlines a number of welcomed projects that will benefit all parts of Northern Ireland, the conversation must now move to how we finance and prioritise these projects on order to get them progressed.”

Concluding the group commented:

“The commitment to a revised Programme for Government brings with it an opportunity to create a new Economic Strategy for Northern Ireland, one that addresses skills challenges, low export figures and the broken rates system for example. The Chamber of Commerce network stands ready to play its part in this process.”