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Great news for high streets as voucher scheme announced

A high street voucher scheme is to be rolled out in the new year with individuals in Northern Ireland receiving a voucher for between £75 and £100 to help stimulate the high street!

The scheme, which was announced by Finance Minster Conor Murphy MLA in the NI Assembly on Monday, will be worth £95m and will be administered by the Department for the Economy. It is believed that between £75 and £100 will be given to each qualifying person on a pre-paid debit card and that around 1.1m people in total will receive a card.

The aim of the scheme is to support ‘bricks and mortar’ retail which has been adversely affected as a result of recent Covid restrictions. A similar scheme was introduced in Jersey earlier in the year with residents receiving £100 each to stimulate the island’s economy. Murray Norton, chief executive of the Jersey Chamber of Commerce, said the initiative had been “good news for the consumer and the high street”.

While the full details of the scheme are not yet available, it is believed that the cards can be spent anywhere and on anything apart from in bookmakers and on gambling products like scratch cards. They also cannot be used online. It is also not clear yet whether the scheme will include everyone over 16 years of age or 18.

In a statement, the Department for the Economy said, “The delivery of a NI-wide High Street Stimulus scheme will help to encourage people to shop local and visit local retailers, putting much needed revenue straight into local businesses. The Department for the Economy is currently developing the scheme including the voucher amount and how it will be delivered.”

A further £150m was also announced in rates relief for sectors also affected like retail, hospitality, tourism, leisure, childcare and airports; £10.6m for wet pubs; £20m for company directors; and £4.1m for bed and breakfasts.