‘Businesses of all sizes are seriously struggling’

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The announcement that the current lockdown is to be extended until at least early March will be bitterly disappointing for many businesses in the north west, the chief executive of Derry’s Chamber of Commerce has said.

Paul Clancy was reacting after the NI Executive announced last week that the lockdown which came into force across north on St. Stephen’s Day will be extended until March 5, with many businesses having to remain closed until then.

Mr Clancy said: “While not surprising, this latest extension of the lockdown restrictions is yet again nonetheless bitterly disappointing for businesses.

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“Staff and employer morale is depleted, businesses of all sizes are seriously struggling with their cash flows, and planning ahead is next to impossible. Businesses need political leaders - now more than ever - to provide the strategy, direction, compensation, and confidence which will see them through this year and give them certainty that an economic recovery can take place.

Paul Clancy, Chief Executive of Derry's Chamber of Commerce.Paul Clancy, Chief Executive of Derry's Chamber of Commerce.
Paul Clancy, Chief Executive of Derry's Chamber of Commerce.

“The time is now for the Executive to produce a workable, strategic economic recovery plan, one designed in collaboration with businesses which will give them the confidence and certainty going forward. Business owners are not naïve and we know that the success of the vaccine roll-out will take time to come to fruition. But the Executive must use this time now to ensure that these are the last of the significant lockdown restrictions imposed on businesses.”

He added that government departments should also do all they can to get vital grant payments out to struggling businesses. “I would implore Ministers and officials to widen the eligibility criteria of existing schemes to help firms who are falling through the cracks,” he added.

“Ahead of the UK Budget on March 3, the Executive must also be lobbying the Treasury to extend the furlough scheme well beyond its current end date of April to protect jobs. By the end of the current lockdown on March 5, we will be nearly one year into living with significant restrictions on our lives and livelihoods”.

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“The Executive has an opportunity now to learn from the mistakes of the past 10 or 11 months and put in place a plan which will get our economy off its knees and give businesses the boost they desperately need.”