WHY IS THE SECRETARY OF STATE TURNING HIS BACK ON THE FOURTH LARGEST EMPLOYER IN NI
22 November 2023
Hospitality Ulster calls on Secretary of State to explain why local hospitality sector didn’t get rates relief afforded to GB counterparts in Autumn Statement.
Hospitality Ulster members have branded the lack of direct focus and support for the local hospitality sector by the British government and the NI Secretary of State as a “disgrace” and “dereliction of duty” towards such an important part of the Northern Ireland economy.
The comments come after a disappointing Autumn Statement by the Chancellor and a sustained period of neglect from Westminster for the industry, despite other parts of the UK being supported with direct rates relief.
Hospitality Ulster says the sector here is being unfairly and disproportionally impacted. Both Hospitality Ulster and Retail NI have now written to the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Chris Heaton-Harris, to seek an urgent meeting.
Colin Neill, Chief Executive, Hospitality Ulster said today:
“Why is the Secretary of State turning his back on the fourth largest employer in Northern Ireland?”
“Why has he not intervened with his colleague the Chancellor to ensure that the 75% rates relief for our counterparts in the rest of the UK has not been ringfenced and directed towards the sector, but instead being used to pay off our wider deficit? That doesn’t seem right. This has been an active decision at a time it is clear we need the support with rising costs and reducing disposal income of our customers.”
“Our members are now sick to death about hearing how great they are and the role the play in communities when speeches are being made, yet are not considered or supported when factors outside of their control have created such a difficult trading environment. This is compounded by the fact that we see others getting help, whilst our own Secretary of State stands idly by.”
“We need Mr Heaton-Harris to come and meet with us, look us in the eye, and explain why our sector has been treated in this way. It’s time to divvy up.”
Colin Neill added:
“We have to remember that the lack of rates relief locally is set against a rapidly declining picture.”
“Our recent survey, conducted by CGA, showed that business optimism in Northern Ireland has plummeted to 22 per cent, down 10 per cent from the summer while over 15 per cent of businesses have said they are at risk of closure within the next 12 months. 69 per cent of operators told us that they have increased their menu prices, but over half have not passed on the full cost of increases in food and drink supplies to consumers, and that energy prices are a significant concern for 62 per cent of hospitality operators, as they have seen an average increase of 41 per cent in monthly bills.”
“We need to be able to find the revenue to pay for the rising costs and the likes of the uplift in the minimum wage – that is only possible with targeted business rates relief and a reduction in hospitality VAT, the Secretary of State must recognise that and work with his colleagues in the Treasury to create a level playing field for our sector in Northern Ireland.”