NIRC launch election agenda for retail – “Election must be about more than just the Protocol”
The Northern Ireland Retail Consortium have launched their retail manifesto for the 2021 Northern Ireland Assembly elections with a plea to the political parties to make it more than just a vote on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The ‘Recover, Rebuild, Revitalise Retail’ manifesto provides core recommendations to the next Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive to help provide a sustainable footing for NI retail as it aims to recover from Covid and the enormous challenges and cost pressures it currently faces.
The outline paper from the leading industry representative group comes ahead of the Assembly election scheduled for 5 May. The 20-page paper covers devolved policymaking, business taxation, regulation, skills, retail crime, sustainability, among other key issues to the industry.
Speaking at the manifesto launch, Aodhán Connolly, Director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, said: “Our industry wants this Assembly election to be more than simply a plebiscite on the NI Protocol.
“Of course, we must be cognisant that the Members of the Legislative Assembly that are returned after 5 May are those that will vote on whether or not to keep Articles 5-10. But that is not the only issue on the minds of the retail industry and the customers it serves, let alone the wider business community.
“The parties must set out how they are going to deliver for business and communities across Northern Ireland on bread and butter issues. These past two years have been the toughest in living memory for retail and with rising costs, and both business and household budgets are feeling the squeeze.”
The retail industry makes a significant economic and social contribution to Northern Ireland, including employing 90,000 people and contributing a quarter of all business rates returns. The NIRC’s members range from well-known high street, out-of-town, online and grocery retailers.
Some of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium’s key recommendations for the Assembly are to deliver:
- A NI Retail Strategy
- More flexible Retail Modern Apprenticeship Frameworks and simplified access to apprenticeship levy contributions
- A firm timetable to substantially lower the headline business rates multiplier to bring it more into line with the rest of the UK
- A shopworkers protection bill to give our workers the same protection as in GB
- A collaborative approach to with retail to tackle climate change by building on the industry’s ground-breaking Climate Action Plan and roadmap
- Support for the NI Mental Health Strategy
Aodhán Connolly said: “This Assembly election comes as the industry hits the very apex of the current retail revolution. Covid has accelerated the existing trends in retail: including driving customers towards digital, weakened demand, and put retailers under unparalleled pressure. Retail was already in a difficult position before 2020 but Covid has exposed and exacerbated the many challenges the industry was grappling with.
“The next Executive will have to respond to this reality. A more coherent approach to the industry led by a retail enabling strategy which protects ordinary consumers and provides a competitive tax system will provide a framework that can help retail to recover.
“It is imperative decision makers work with the industry to help retailers recover from the current challenges, rebuilding the sector’s foundation whilst revitalising opportunities for economic growth and regeneration. Conversely, if the opportunity is lost then there could be severe consequences for businesses and communities across Northern Ireland. We stand ready to work with the incoming Executive but the parties must work together to deliver real change that delivers tangible benefits for Northern Ireland households.”
Read the NIRC Assembly Election 2022 Manifesto HERE.