Executive must be restored urgently to support local businesses - Kearney
Speaking after conducting a series of meetings across South Antrim this week with local enterprise agencies, business people and traders, alongside his Party colleague Finance Minister, Conor Murphy, the local Sinn Féin MLA, Declan Kearney said that the power sharing Executive must be urgently restored.
The South Antrim MLA said:
“I welcomed the opportunity to host a visit to South Antrim this week by our Finance Minister, Conor Murphy, and organise meetings for local business people and support organisations to tell us directly about the huge financial and operational pressures they are all currently experiencing.
“We visited our two social enterprise and business support agencies in Antrim town and Mallusk, and met local tenants involved in distribution, service, retail, and the third sector.
“Both of these organisations provide a tremendous service in helping to grow and expand small and medium enterprises in the constituency.
“These kind of businesses are the backbone of the regional economy, and the two agencies play a key supporting role.
“However, this sector is contending with extreme pressures arising from soaring energy prices, increasing overhead costs, and knock-on impacts for supply chains, due to the present economic emergency.
“Many of our South Antrim businesses are faced with unprecedented challenges, including, the prospect of increased interest rates, escalating energy costs, the need for improved infrastructure, maximising cross border trade opportunities, as well as the continued uncertainty over the so called ‘Shared Prosperity Fund’.
“Our meetings confirmed Sinn Féin’s view that revitalised economic, industrial and energy strategies are needed in the north. It is apparent that Invest NI is not properly engaged with, or responsive to, the work of our local enterprise centres.”
The pressures upon the local retail and service sector were discussed at length when the Sinn Féin politicians met with Crumlin town traders. Referring to that meeting, Declan Kearney commented:
“The businesses trading in our town and village streets are contending with potentially catastrophic pressures. The Crumlin traders described unmanageable electricity, oil and gas bills, and in trying to balance their books, with rates, staff shortages, wages, and other overheads.
“Following the impact of the Covid health emergency upon the economy, this cost of living perfect storm is now placing serious doubts over the short to midterm viability of small traders.
“Many of these businesses will rely upon sales and income between now and Christmas to carry them into the new financial year.
“The Finance Minister and I set out Sinn Féin’s efforts to press for greater financial support from the British government to address our economic situation. We also pointed out that the absence of a functioning Executive creates even greater difficulties for our ability to effectively deal with the devastating impacts upon small traders.
“The DUP’s continued blocking of a new Executive is madness in these circumstances, and totally out of touch with the needs of local business.
“Now more than ever a power sharing Executive must be urgently restored to provide the support which is needed by South Antrim businesses, traders, workers, and families.