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Chamber President warns North West businesses could be decimated by COVID-19

Derry Chamber President Redmond McFadden has warned that businesses in the North West will be decimated by COVID-19 if government does not provide adequate support.

Finance Minister Conor Murphy last night announced a range of measures to help Northern Irish businesses navigate the crisis, including the deferral of domestic rates bills between April and June. Chancellor Rishi Sunak also announced a stimulus package of £330bn in business loans, £20bn in other aid, a three-month mortgage holiday, and support for retailers and pubs in Great Britain.

Around 80 businesses in the North West have already been forced to close due to the crisis and, with the situation only set to worsen, businesses need further clarity as soon as possible to ensure they can survive.

Redmond McFadden, President of the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce, said: “These measures simply don’t go far enough. A three-months rates holiday for businesses here is welcome but we need much, much more from the Executive to keep our regional economy afloat. We’ve also had next to no clarity on how businesses can continue to support staff who are sick or need to self-isolate. Given our proximity to the border and the importance of cross-border trade and travel for our members, having two sets of guidance and advice for people in Donegal and in Derry no longer seems sustainable. We need greater alignment between the two sides of our border to ensure clear messaging and advice for businesses and families.

“We know of around 80 businesses already in the North West who have had to close their doors, and thousands of jobs have been lost. Retail and hospitality businesses are at particular risk, and households and livelihoods across the region are likely to be wiped out if they don’t immediately receive the help they desperately need.

“The Chancellor’s announcement that the UK Government will provide a package of £330bn in business loans will not fix the problem either. Loans are still loans and business owners can’t be expected to make repayments if they don’t have a business to return to. For many, taking on new loans will only add to their anxieties and worries at the moment. Government subsidies or grants are more sustainable solutions which will pump funds into the economy, allow businesses to pay their workers, and help the economy survive.

“Chamber will remain open, available and accessible to support local business throughout this difficult period. I am urging companies and business owners to get in touch with us and share with us your concerns, worries and what challenges you are facing. We will be working hard to secure support and guidance from government and provide the answers which our members need.

“Now is the time for the Executive and the UK Government to show decisive leadership and provide imaginative and creative solutions which will save our businesses. We need government to take the lead, help businesses keep people in work, and allay our fears. We don’t need loans – we need lifelines.”