Treasury must act now to support businesses – Murphy

Finance Minister Conor Murphy has urged the Treasury to “act now” to support businesses facing soaring energy prices and crippling costs.

The minister visited Portaferry where he met with James Higginson, the proprietor of Captain Jack’s restaurant and takeaway.

“I heard first-hand today the detrimental impact the removal of VAT reduction is having for small businesses in the hospitality sector,” Mr Murphy commented.

“Just like households, our businesses are facing a cost crisis.

Jacqueline and James Higginson from Captain Jacks with Finance Minister Conor Murphy and Hospitality Ulster Chief Executive Colin Neill during a visit to Portaferry

“The measures taken by the British Government to date have failed to deliver support for businesses, which are under immense pressure as a result of increased fuel and energy costs.

“These pressures are set against a backdrop of trying to recover from the impact of the pandemic.

“Treasury cannot wait until the autumn to take action, the reality is that this may be too late for some businesses. It is imperative that they take action now.”

Chief Executive of Hospitality Ulster, Colin Neill, also attended the visit.

Jacqueline and James Higginson from Captain Jacks with Finance Minister Conor Murphy and Hospitality Ulster Chief Executive Colin Neill during a visit to Portaferry

Speaking afterwards, he said: “We welcome that Minister Murphy is out on the ground in Portaferry meeting directly with business owners and listening to the experiences of a number of sectors, including those from the hospitality industry about the pressures owners and managers are under.

“Energy prices, labour shortages, increased overheads and tightening consumer spending are making the current trading environment very difficult and there is no end in sight.

“The problems are clear, but we now have to move into solution finding mode and are willing to work with the Minister to see what more can be done to support the wider business community.”

The minister also visited the Portico of Ards, an arts venue and Presbyterian church which recently received almost £100,000 from the Dormant Accounts Fund being delivered by The National Lottery Community Fund in conjunction with Department of Finance.

The new funding will support the appointment of an Outreach Officer, extending the venue’s programme of events.

Mr Murphy concluded his time in the town with a visit to Nugent’s Wood, a community woodland at the edge of the town, which received funding from the PEACE IV Programme to provide improvements to the walking trail.

After the visit, Mr Murphy stated: “I really welcome the opportunity to visit the Ards Peninsula and to meet some of the organisations which have benefitted from the grants and rate support put in place by my department.

“There are challenges ahead, but I will continue to lobby the British Government to step up and support our local business sector during this difficult time.”