Belfast Telegraph

Invest NI may charge for services, just like Republic of Ireland

By Margaret Canning

Invest NI may charge firms for its services as the agency faces up to cuts in its budget.

The draft budget agreement hammered out by the Executive just last month will see all of the departments take a massive £160m hit.

Chief executive Alastair Hamilton said the agency had made no decisions as yet on where the axe would be falling in Invest NI. But he said it could look to the example of Enterprise Ireland, the economic development agency for indigenous firms in the Republic.

Enterprise Ireland charged firms for some of its services, such as market research and export advice, as well as providing grants.

Mr Hamilton said that already, firms in Northern Ireland contributed to some of the costs of Invest NI assistance.

That included funding almost half the cost of finance vouchers, which are provided to firms to help them find new ways of funding themselves.

And the agency's finances were also hamstrung by the fact that it made long-term finance commitments to firms' job creation programmes.

The Invest Ni chief executive said: "In the recently published draft 2015-2016 Budget settlement, Invest NI has been given a budget of £96m.

"At this level, our budget will be 93% committed at the start of the year, resulting in only very small levels of funding being available for new business in-year.

"For the remainder of this year and into next we will now have a renewed focus on rebuilding our pipeline of projects to drive future investments in Northern Ireland."

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