MORE JOINED UP PLANNING, INVESTMENT & ACTIONS NEEDED - LOCALLY
Commenting on new analysis by The Centre for Progressive Policy of the short-term economic impact of COVID-19, NILGA President, Councillor Frances Burton said:
“These are deeply concerning figures and are sadly unsurprising. Firms across Northern Ireland are severely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis in the short-term and well beyond, especially areas like Mid Ulster and Mid and East Antrim, heavily reliant on manufacturing and industrial sectors for jobs and economic activity. These are sectors which have been severely affected in recent weeks. This analysis will be extremely worrying for local employers, employees and economic support bodies working hard to sustain the fragile economy.”
Many local firms are proving their ability to innovate and adapt in the current circumstances, like Bloc Blinds now making protective masks in our Leisure Centre here in Mid Ulster. Likewise, all councils have reacted quickly to tailor and adapt their business support services to cope with unparalleled demand for advice and assistance in the short term. However, in the longer term, dedicated and well-resourced support to enable firms to survive, innovate and collaborate in the 'new normal' will be essential.
This analysis and the current situation amplify the need for a regional economic recovery plan that can be led through local councils and tailored for the specific local needs of each council area. Blows to local economic activity, coupled with increased demand on public services, will have a huge impact on the capacity of our local councils. Local council areas across Northern Ireland are dynamically providing immediate, direct and comprehensive support partnering with key agencies, to halt this decline and ease the perilous situation”.
Almost £1bn in additional funding has recently been allocated to local councils in Britain to help them deliver key services, services councils here deliver too, including business support.
Councillor Burton added:
“Northern Ireland’s councils are responsible for driving entrepreneurial activity in their areas and have a key role to play in supporting local firms through their economic development programmes. It is time for Northern Ireland’s councils to be resourced for this activity, through a local business hardship relief fund, provided through national level investment. Such on the ground coordination - as with so many other similar interventions - will help councils guide businesses through this emergency and support our economic recovery. Councils working with businesses and their partners, locally, will result in regeneration and recovery but a dedicated fund is needed now to foster enterprise - and hope.”