“Let’s do business” – that is the message delivered to Local Government in a new action plan released today (21 September 2015) by the chambers of commerce network across Northern Ireland.
‘Let’s do business’ makes over 20 recommendations that will reduce the cost of doing business and lead to the creation of thousands jobs across the Province in the construction, retail, tourism, manufacturing and service sectors.
It is the first time that chambers of commerce have joined forces in such as appeal and comes on the back of Northern Ireland’s growing town centre vacancy rate which is the highest in the UK at 17.3% according to the latest Springboard survey.
With footfall also down by 4.5%, the chambers of commerce here are seeking a firm commitment to a ‘town centre first’ approach from each council area.
Commenting on the launch of ‘Let’s do business’, the network said:
“Chambers of commerce throughout Northern Ireland are committed to protecting the vitality and viability of their towns and city centres through sustainable development and effective regeneration. The chambers of commerce network in Northern Ireland therefore seeks a firm commitment to a Town Centre First planning policy being produced for each of the new district council areas.
“Building upon the excellent relationships between local chambers and Local Government, we believe that it is the chamber of commerce network that is best placed to work with Local Government on community plans. We now encourage local councils to support our recommendations and help instil confidence back into businesses.”
Amongst the recommendations made by the network, are those around business rates. Recent research by Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry revealed that a massive 78% of Northern Ireland business owners want to see the decades old system reviewed and consideration given to a system which more adequately reflects economic and business conditions. Particular concerns were expressed around the equity of the current system and members also asked for greater transparency around what their business rates actually pay for.
“In areas with higher rates, the impact could be the difference between businesses in these areas remaining viable and having to close. If an increase in rates is unavoidable, Councillors must chose the maximum period of adjustment allowed to ensure the viability of those businesses and protect local jobs.
“Government must target and encourage new businesses with rates incentives and an imaginative rates strategy that learns from best practise from other countries.”
The Northern Ireland wide document also calls on local Councils to support business in putting forward the business case for investment in Northern Ireland’s infrastructure.
“There is currently a lack of delivery around key projects, for example the North South Interconnector, the A5 and the A6. In addition to this, our current road networks are not well maintained and some urban areas, including Belfast, have insufficient capacity.
“Businesses rely on transport networks to move goods and people; on energy infrastructure to keep production lines and technology running; on telecoms to deliver services, and to connect with customers and suppliers. Failure to invest in capacity and maintenance is hampering business growth and costing jobs.
“A world-class economy needs world-class infrastructure to support economic growth, and businesses need certainty that crucial improvements will be delivered.”