19 August 2013

Pubs of Ulster, the representative body of the hospitality sector in Northern Ireland, has welcomed the support of the new Finance Minister, Simon Hamilton as he embarks on his new role as head of the Department of Finance and Personnel.   

The Minister stated his support during an in-depth meeting between the Minister and Pubs of Ulster representatives, arranged to discuss the financial and economic challenges facing the survival and progression of the industry in Northern Ireland.  During the briefing, the Minister heard their concerns over key issues affecting the sector, with banks and access to finance topping the agenda. Representatives were also given the unique opportunity to hear first-hand the Minister’s key priorities and his thoughts on the main economic challenges that businesses in Northern Ireland face.


Commenting on the meeting, Minister Hamilton said:


“The hospitality sector is an extremely important part of our local economy and is an integral part of our tourism industry and product which the Executive has invested heavily in over recent years. This is a sector that is going to be so important as we seek to rebuild our economy over the next couple of years.


 “Meeting representatives of Pubs of Ulster and engaging in an open discussion about the threats and opportunities facing the sector has been extremely beneficial. Specific concerns were raised about bank lending and improving the availability of finance at reasonable terms is an issue my Department is already very much focused on.  This is critical for our local businesses, including those in the trade, and I assured them that I am and will continue to press this point with both the banks and the Government.”


As well as discussing the role of banks and financial institutions, the Minister also heard how other economic issues are affecting the trade. Pubs of Ulster raised its current lobbying activities at Westminster, including the campaign to lower the rate of VAT for the hospitality sector which the Minister supported last year with his motion in the NI Assembly.


Mark Stewart, chair of Pubs of Ulster said:


“It is no secret that our sector has been severely hit by the downturn in the economy, but we are working hard to diversify, expand our offering and secure our future.  However, a number of factors are proving to be significant obstacles to recovery and progress, with access to finance proving to be one of the greatest challenges for the industry today. 


“We are therefore greatly encouraged that the Minister has met with us, right in the heart of his Strangford constituency, in the first few weeks of his new post to listen to our concerns.  We hope that by creating an open forum we can continue to work closely with the Minister and his department to examine ways in which we can protect the future of our industry.”