Clarity call on 'recovery plan' for Mid Ulster businesses

Businesses in Cookstown and Magherafelt closed due to the pandemic need clarity regarding a pathway to recovery, a local politician has said.

Wednesday, 17th February 2021, 2:31 pm
Updated Wednesday, 17th February 2021, 2:32 pm

DUP MLA Keith Buchanan says he has been contacted by many business owners in the Mid Ulster district regarding the restrictions and the financial impact they are having to endure.

Mr Buchanan recently raised the impact of the lockdown on the local business community at Stormont.

He said: “Since the start of the pandemic I have been working with many businesses across Mid Ulster regarding the restrictions, and the different financial assistance and grants that have been available.

Magherafelt town centre where many businesses have been closed due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Magherafelt town centre where many businesses have been closed due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“Many of our local businesses have felt the financial impact of Covid restrictions and as they try to plan for a new financial year they need clarity regarding a pathway to recovery and indicative reopening dates for their businesses.

“I therefore asked the Minister of Finance what plans his Department would be putting in place regarding business rates relief for the fiscal year 2021/22 and when he expected to make an announcement?”

In a reply to Mr Buchanan the Finance Minister Conor Murphy said his officials are working closely with the Ulster University Economic Policy Centre to identify those business sectors most severely impacted by the economic consequences of the pandemic.

“This work, which is now at an advanced stage, will allow me to determine how additional business rate relief can be applied to best effect to support local businesses in the year ahead,” said Mr Murphy.

“I have also announced my intention to freeze the Regional Rates in 2021/22 for both business and domestic rate payers.

“I fully appreciate that businesses need as much clarity as possible on costs such as rates to assist with their financial planning. I will clarify the position as soon as possible.”

Mr Buchanan said he would continue to work on behalf of the local economy and “await patiently for further measures to be announced that will help our economy and our independent retailers on the High Street.”

Northern Ireland re-entered lockdown seven weeks ago after there was an increase in Covid related hospital admissions and deaths following Christmas.

The restrictions will be reviewed by the Executive on Thursday and it will fall to the five parties to decide whether to extend restrictions beyond March 5, or begin the process of lifting them.

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