FSB NI says small businesses can’t operate in a fog of government uncertainty
The Federation of Business in Northern Ireland is deeply concerned about the possibility of the NI Executive not being formed in the near future following the election for MLAs.
The FSB NI said that the prospect of lengthy, post-election negotiations and uncertainty over whether the Executive will return any time soon is causing concern in the business community, at a time when the need for economic policy interventions could not be greater.
Ahead of a series of meetings with the newly elected Assembly Members, FSB NI has mapped out how each of the main political parties has pledged to support small businesses in the next mandate. FSB has also compared the election commitments made by the parties against the key asks contained in FSB’s Manifesto- Unfinished Business – which reveals a rather stark picture.
Of FSB’s multiple recommendations for Better Government, two parties responded by including specific manifesto commitments to align a Stormont budget with a Programme for Government. Publication of the Executive’s plans, decision-making process, timeline and the budget to support it is a top priority for FSB, whose members believe that there is an onus on the next Executive to carry out its activities in a business-like and transparent manner.
Head of FSB NI, Roger Pollen said: “It is disappointing to see that the needs of small businesses have received little emphasis in the manifestos of the main parties. In order to ensure that the priorities of these businesses are properly championed, FSB has written to all newly elected MLAs to restate the key issues of our members have raised, as laid out in our manifesto – Unfinished Business.”
“With so much at stake, our priority is to see the formation of a stable Executive which can take decisions that will provide stability for SMEs at a time of rising costs and deep uncertainty.”
“We look forward to engaging with Assembly Members to press the need for Stormont to get behind small businesses. “It is only through effective collaboration that we will begin to see progress on many outstanding economic policies that will help protect jobs and boost prosperity right across Northern Ireland.”
A comparison of FSB’s main financial asks, with those in the party manifestos, revealed that five parties have committed to transforming the Business Rates System, however, only two have pledged to revisit the transfer of corporation tax powers and reduce the tax rate.
FSB has also been clear about the need for a truly flexible skills system that is fit for purpose for small and medium businesses. This is essential to the economy’s long-term recovery from Covid-19 and for sustained future growth, so it is welcome that the majority of parties have recognised the need to reconfigure the skills system.
The implementation of a full Childcare Strategy is a top priority for FSB members as it is seen as the key which can unlock so much Northern Ireland’s economic potential. Only one party responded directly to this call, pledging to provide affordable and flexible childcare in the next mandate.
Business owners are clear that failure to deliver on this pledge would perpetuate a substantial existing barrier for parents, in particular women, being able to work, train or start a new enterprise.