Joint Letter to Elected Reps

30th March 2020

27 March 2020

Dear Elected Representative,

We hope this letter finds you well. This letter is sent on behalf of Belfast Chamber, Belfast One BID, Destination CQ BID and Linen Quarter BID.

As you will be well aware, the COVID-19 pandemic has already had a hugely negative impact on our city’s economy. Government decisions to close businesses down for entirely understandable public health reasons have resulted in many of our members and levy payers having to close their doors and cease trading. Whilst we understand that this is an emergency which is affecting everywhere in the region, we believe that it is having a particular acute impact on our city centre where footfalls have dropped off by in excess of 50% in the last week alone and are expected to fall by close to 100% this week.

We have welcomed the support offered by Government and the NI Executive thus far. It has certainly assisted many of our members and levy payers. We recognise that responding to a crisis such as this requires rapid decision making which does not then always appreciate certain nuances especially those relating to Belfast. For example, the use of a NAV of £51,000 as a qualification for the £25,000 grants scheme has meant that many businesses in Belfast have not been eligible for this much needed support even though they have been instructed by Government to close and similar businesses in other parts of the region are getting the grant. Similarly, it is our view that the rates holiday, initially given to all business for 3 months, should be extended further with a particular emphasis to those businesses, like many across Belfast in retail, hospitality and other sectors who are now closed. These sectors are central to the growth of our tourism economy and it is essential that we also provide support to larger venues that drive this market.

Belfast city centre has endured a tough few years. We have been trying hard to recover from the devasting impact of the Bank Buildings fire and are now having to contend with COVID-19. On behalf of our members and levy payers, we implore you to use your good offices to urge Government and particularly the Executive to consider additional interventions to support businesses like those in Belfast who have been forced to close and cease trading but are not going to be able to avail of support like the grants scheme.

We would be happy to discuss this issue with you further.

Yours sincerely,