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Financial support needed to prevent redundancies

The Londonderry Chamber is urging the UK Government and Northern Ireland Executive to get financial support to businesses as soon as possible, before decisions will have to be made on redundancies.

With new measures announced by the NI Executive, the Chamber has said that the damage inflicted on many businesses will be irreversible, unless significant and additional support measures are put in place, as well as a strategy on how to emerge from the crisis.

Businesses in Derry and Strabane have been faced with severe restrictions for almost two weeks and the Chamber believe that many will not remain viable for much longer.

In a meeting with the Secretary of State Brandon Lewis MP on Wednesday, business representatives from Derry and Strabane reiterated calls for clarity over funding and an immediate opening of funds that businesses can access as soon as possible.

Chamber President Redmond McFadden said: “The announcement of new restrictions has been met with more confusion and business owners are feeling overwhelmed with how to meet this new set of challenges. We pressed upon the Secretary of State the need for Westminster to properly fund any UK-wide or stricter local lockdown measures in order to save jobs and small businesses.

“The reimposition of measures in Derry and Strabane recently, while necessary, has already damaged local businesses and the North West has effectively been in lockdown for almost two weeks now. We know there are businesses in our region now actively considering large scale redundancies and the damage that is doing will be irreversible for many.

“The reality is also, that for many of those businesses, the new Job Support Scheme does not work for them and actually adds to their financial burden, rather than relieving it. The furlough scheme in its original form must be reinstated to give businesses a fighting chance.

“While businesses are not opposed to measures which will curb the disturbing rise in Covid cases which we have seen in recent weeks, they need to be properly compensated and protected by the government. There will be a much higher cost associated with people losing their jobs, therefore every effort must be made to keep people in employment, particularly in a region which suffers from some of the highest unemployment levels in the UK.

“The consequences of inadequate support for our workers and local firms will far outlast the pandemic and will push people and families into poverty and destitution.

“In light of this we would also urge the public to once again play their part in pushing the R rate back down. That means sacrifices in the next number of weeks and we know that is difficult, however if we do not work collectively to drive infection rates down now, we are doing untold damage to our own local economy and limiting many life chances for our young people.

“Our actions over the next few weeks will dictate how quickly we can come out of this so it’s crucial that everyone plays their part now. Social and personal responsibility needs to be paramount, behaviours and habits need to change now, and following the four basics – handwashing, social distancing, mask wearing and minimising social contacts – will save lives and save jobs.”