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Northern Irish councils call for funding boost to aid stricken high streets

Words: Roger Milne
Belfast / Shutterstock_1208540974

Councils across Northern Ireland are urging the Executive to provide more financial support to help high streets, hospitality organisations and the cultural sector to get back to business. 

The issue was discussed this week by Stormont’s Economy Committee, which took joint evidence from the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) and the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives NI (SOLACE).

SOLACE and NILGA pointed to councils in England being given £50 million to help businesses introduce measures that will allow them to reopen safely, in accordance with the public health advice around social distancing.

Speaking on behalf of SOLACE, Belfast City Council’s chief executive Suzanne Wylie, said: “Individual councils are planning how to reimagine and reinvigorate local high streets, and provide the public with confidence that measures have been put in place to ensure their safety when they come back into town. 

“We have seen lots of very innovative examples of outdoor restaurant spaces for example and flexible use of public space.

“Our high street and town centres are the key drivers to help restart the economy and provide stability as we enter this period of recovery; however, there is very little dedicated government money earmarked to support this work.

“We are actively considering how we can support, provide advice, market, and coordinate as appropriate, a range of practical measures – including signage and markings, and temporary barriers to ensure social distancing while queuing - to help people feel safe and confident to re-enter retail outlets on our high streets and town centres.

“This will cost money, and we are appealing to the NI Executive to support councils in helping to deliver these measures to achieve a safe, accessible, yet socially distant environment on our high streets.”

SOLACE and NILGA have also called for more government support for micro-business, as well as rapid skills development programmes.

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