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Starting on 27th November, non-essential shops and businesses will close for two weeks, as part of tougher measures with the Northern Ireland Executive pledging to provide increased financial support to those businesses forced to close.

The immediate package will be worth about £338 million, while £150 million has been earmarked for longer-term rates relief.

Among the measures agreed by the Executive are:

  • A £95 million voucher scheme to encourage shoppers to support local traders by giving them a pre-paid card to use on the High Street
  • £20 million for company directors, a group that has been excluded from previous support
  • £20 million to extend a 12-months rates holiday to manufacturing businesses, bringing the sector into line with what has been offered to hospitality, tourism, leisure and retail
  • £10.6 million to support about 1,000 drink-only pubs that have been shut since 16 October
  • £10 million for councils
  • £10 million for sports clubs hit by the restrictions
  • £5 million to top up the tourism and hospitality grants scheme
  • £4.1 million for about 953 bed and breakfast accommodation businesses excluded from previous support
  • £3 million to help local businesses grow online sales
  • £44.3 million to allow one-off heating payments of £200 to disabled people on higher rate allowances and older people in receipt of pension credit

Finance Minister Conor Murphy said that the pre-paid card issued through the voucher scheme will be worth about £200 per household, adding the Department for the Economy will roll out the plan in early 2021, as it will take about six weeks to develop.

“It's not meant to support households, it's meant to stimulate growth on the High Street,” he said, explaining that the financial support package was as a result of an additional £400 million provided from Westminster two weeks ago to support the Executive's response.

Date published 24 Nov 2020 | Last updated 24 Nov 2020

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