Derry Chamber President Dawn McLaughlin welcomes 'some positives' in Rishi Sunak's Budget 2021

The President of the Chamber of Commerce in Derry Dawn McLaughlin says Budget 2021 announced by the British Chancellor this afternoon offers some positive news to North West businesses.

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 3:10 pm
Dawn McLaughlin

She said the announcement that the furlough scheme will be extended until the end of September is sensible decision and will act as a lifeline for employers seeking to prevent redundancies.

Businesses, she said, are in dire need of support, clarity and certainty.

“The extension of the 5% rate of VAT for the hospitality sector is also vital for struggling pubs and restaurants who have been among the worst hit in the pandemic. Additional support for the self-employed is also to be welcomed and it is vital that all self-employed people entitled to support receive it and are not left behind as they have so often been during this crisis.

“However, the new employer contributions on the furlough scheme required from July onwards must focus minds within the Executive. Many businesses already struggle to pay employer contributions on the scheme without revenue coming in. Businesses must be allowed to trade again as soon as safely possible to ensure these increased contributions can be met and jobs can be protected during the summer," she said.

The local business chief said the Chamber had hoped for more leeway with the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) which ends in March.

In the North, Scotland and Wales businesses have collectively received 8,000 CBILS loans £2 billion as a result of loss of trade due to the pandemic restrictions.

Companies with turnover under £45m have been able to borrow up to £5 million with the taxpayer covering an 80% guarantee to lenders.

No loan fees or interest payments are being charged for the first twelve months. However, the application period ends on March 31, 2021.

Ms. McLaughlin said: “We also are disappointed that there has not been any flexibility granted on the CBILS loans. Many of these businesses which took these loans have still been unable to trade substantially and will struggle to make repayments.

"We would call again for the Treasury to look at what flexibilities can be made in relation to repayments and interest rates. We note that these have been replaced by the new Recovery Loans Scheme and we would urge that they are flexible and pragmatic schemes."

She urged the Executive to work with the London government to continue to support hard-pressed businesses.

“This Budget must merely be the first step in a committed rebuild effort by the UK Government to support local businesses seeking to recover from the devastating impact of the past year. The Executive must now work with the Government to ensure that this support targets hard-hit businesses, reaches all regions of the local economy and gives North West businesses the tools to build back better," she said.