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CEO tells Economy Committee – need for North-South coordination on Re-Opening


The Chief Executive of Derry Chamber has told Stormont’s Economy Committee that a joined-up approach is needed north and south when it is safe to re-open.

Derry Chamber joined the Belfast, Newry and Causeway Chambers to outline the impact that Covid-19 has had on businesses in Northern Ireland.

Paul Clancy, Chief Executive of the Londonderry Chamber told MLAs that there are additional concerns from businesses that operate in border areas and how different re-opening plans could be detrimental to businesses on one side of the border if there is no co-ordination.

At the joint presentation the four Chambers also told the Committee that the Executive must make clear, as soon as possible, how it plans to restart the local economy and set out what support and assistance it will give businesses to prepare for reopening.

In a joint presentation to the Assembly, the Chambers emphasised that we are only at the beginning of the economic challenges created by COVID 19 and our businesses need a combination of the short term financial interventions already announced, as well as long term investment to support the rebuilding of our economy and protection of jobs.

Chief Executive of the Derry Chamber, Paul Clancy said:

I welcomed the opportunity to talk to MLAs in Stormont’s Economy Committee today and. Obviously the priority is health and wellbeing of the population, but businesses are already looking at how they can re-open when it is deemed safe to do so. That requires a level of planning now. We need guidance and assurances from the Executive that businesses will be supported as much as possible to do this.

“Together with the Belfast, Newry and Causeway Chambers, we have urged MLAs to echo our concerns to the Economy Minister. It is vital that support measures are not short-term and aim to help businesses and keep our economy going.

“The restart of the economy must be carefully managed and responsibly phased to ensure it can fully recover, to protect workers and the wider public, and to avoid having to shut down again, a measure which would simply decimate our regional economy.

“Also, as a regional economy which is heavily reliant on cross border trade, North West businesses need to see greater co-operation and a more synchronised approach between Northern Ireland, the rest of the UK and the Republic of Ireland. It is very confusing and frustrating for businesses which operate on both sides of the border to see one set of advice and a detailed relaxation plan in Donegal, but another set of guidelines and less clarity in Derry. Businesses need to see light at the end of this tunnel, and I am urging the Executive to urgently publish its lockdown relaxation plans.

“We also raised concerns that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for furloughing workers is closing at the end of June. The government must ensure that there is no cliff-edge situation which leaves businesses with no other choice but to lay off their workers. For the economy to bounce back, everything must be done to ensure jobs are saved and businesses are kept afloat. Hundreds of local businesses, especially those in sectors like retail, hospitality, and tourism, will need a furloughing scheme of some description extended well beyond June and the summer.

“Protecting the health of workers and preventing the further spread of this virus will be the number one priority for companies as we return to normality. Firms will need to implement new social distancing measures in the workplace as well as significantly altering their work environments. However, this will come at a substantial cost to small businesses and financial support will be required from the government to ensure health and safety advice is fully adhered to. If the government is expecting companies to reopen and get back to work, greater support and clearer guidelines are urgently needed to allow companies to do this safely.”