Belfast Telegraph

Belfast councillors call summit as they still can't decide on Sunday trading changes

By Andrew Madden, local democracy reporter

A decision on extending Sunday trading hours in Belfast has once again been deferred for the second time in as many weeks.

Now a summit between all interest parties will be held to try and reach an agreement.

Belfast city councillors were expected to vote on the issue last week, however the decision was postponed so parties could have more time to gather information.

The motion was back on the table at a meeting of Belfast City Council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee on Friday morning, however it appeared there were still issues that needed to be resolved.

At the last minute, Sinn Fein group leader Deirdre Hargey proposed deferring the decision for another week to convene a “summit” of all stakeholders to try and reach an agreement.

Independent retail trade union Retail NI and USDAW, the shopworkers trade union, are firmly against extending the Sunday trading hours in Belfast.

Others, including Hospitality Ulster and Visit Belfast, are in favour of the proposals.

Councillor Hargey said there were still “serious concerns and worries” regarding workers’ rights that needed to be resolved and Sinn Fein did not have the “assurances needed” to make a decision on Friday.

The vote is on whether to designate Belfast a “holiday resort”, which will allow large shops to extend their trading hours on 18 Sundays each year.

In the last 12 months, there has been one committee vote and two public consultations on the issue.

Combining the two consultations there is a slight majority (52.8%) in favour of extending Sunday trading hours for large shops in the Belfast district.

First time round, the proposals were rejected by the SDLP , Sinn Fein and the DUP and there was little to suggest positions had changed in the run up to Friday’s meeting.

In a statement, Michala Lafferty, Usdaw Area Organiser, and Glyn Roberts, Retail NI Chief Executive, welcomed the idea of a summit to “agree a broader strategy to grow the weekend economy of Belfast”.

“We are committed to seeing Belfast becoming a truly global city with a competitive retail and hospitality offer to shoppers and tourists,” they added.

“This ‘summit’ should be convened sooner rather than later and we look forward to positively engaging on a new way forward for Belfast.”

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary Elect, said they are delighted the council has agreed to a summit.

“We do not believe longer Sunday trading hours is the best way forward, so we look forward to working alongside Belfast City Council and other interested parties to explore options that would deliver a real and meaningful boost to the weekend economy of Belfast,” he said.

“It is the sensible way forward and we thank the councillors for listening to the evidence and coming to that conclusion.”

Local News Partnership

Weekly Business Digest Newsletter

This week's business news headlines, directly to your inbox every Tuesday.

Popular