Belfast Telegraph

Local firms count the cost as the big chill continues

By Symon Ross

Businesses in Northern Ireland are counting the cost of the cold weather and bracing themselves for more snow and ice.

Insurer RSA predicts that a day of severe snow could cost Britain's economy as much as £690m in lost output and sales.

The Federation of Small Business estimates that one in 10 employees not making it into work could cost £600m a day.

Northern Ireland accounts for 2.3% of the UK gross domestic product, so such conditions could cost the province almost £14m.

“Freezing cold conditions and snowfall affect transport routes and while the best efforts are in place to ensure the roads are snow and ice free, fewer people will make it into work and this will impact on sales on high streets across Northern Ireland,” said Jonathan Walmsley from the FSB in Northern Ireland.

“Severe weather conditions are a major challenge to business and are coming on top of a difficult 12 months for the small business sector,” he added.

Building firms returning after the Christmas break have been unable to start work, slowing down the few projects currently underway in the beleaguered |industry.

Darren Green from freight forwarding firm TCB (NI) said icy roads were also starting to cause problems for road hauliers.

“The problem in Northern Ireland is that quite a lot of manufacturers are small and they tend to be located in rural areas on minor roads that are not easily accessible,” he said. “Once you are trying to get deliveries into these areas there are difficulties and we have quite a few deliveries haven’t happened because you can’t get near the places.”

Glyn Roberts from the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association added: “The big concern is getting staff to work on time and also customers coming into their stores. It does cause disruption right across the board.”

Royal Mail said its staff were doing their best to get deliveries through to residential and business customers.

A spokesman said: “Their dedication has ensured that any disruption to services is confined to a very small proportion of addresses where roads are simply impassable.

“There has also been some disruption to mail going to and from Great Britain where weather has affected air and road networks.”

Belfast Telegraph