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Economy Minister Lyons confirms rollout of NI high street voucher card

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Economy Minister Gordon Lyons pictured at Carrickfergus Castle

Economy Minister Gordon Lyons pictured at Carrickfergus Castle

The high street has been decimated by the pandemic. Pic Presseye

The high street has been decimated by the pandemic. Pic Presseye

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Economy Minister Gordon Lyons pictured at Carrickfergus Castle

The Economy Minister Gordon Lyons has revealed roll out for the much-delayed high street voucher scheme will be launched in “early September” with cards delivered shortly after.

Mr Lyons also confirmed the financial services company PFS has been awarded the contract for its operation.

The High Street Stimulus scheme will see a £100 pre-paid card given to every adult to be used in shops and hospitality establishments throughout Northern Ireland

Mr Lyons told media gathered in Carrickfergus on Thursday registration for an online portal to receive the card will open in “early September,” with the cards expected to be delivered to people’s homes “a number of days” after successfully registering.

The minister said the application process for the card will involve verifying people’s identity using the electoral register.

The design of the card will also feature a “Spend Local” logo. 

Earlier this week, a row broke out between the Economy Minister and Health Minister after Robin Swann suggested the scheme could be linked to vaccination status.

However the idea was slapped down by Mr Lyons, with his department arguing it would create “unnecessary bureaucracy,” legal issues and ultimately put the scheme in jeopardy of never getting off the ground.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill also ruled out any plans to link the high street voucher shopping scheme with double vaccination.

Announcing more details about the scheme, Mr Lyons said: “After a robust procurement process, I am pleased to announce that the contract for the High Street Scheme has been awarded to PFS.

“This scheme is a key element of my Department’s Economic Recovery Action Plan and will give a very welcome boost to our high streets which were hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. This uplift is what our local businesses need and deserve.

“It will mean up to 1.4 million people will have an extra £100 each to spend on our high streets rather than online. This will help bring many more customers back through the doors of local retail, hospitality and other sectors.

“I look forward to seeing the benefits this scheme will bring to the wide range of businesses situated in the heart of towns, villages and cities across Northern Ireland.”

The announcement was also welcomed by retail and hospitality groups here, who hope it will provide a much-needed boost to the local high street.

Colin Neill, Chief Executive of Hospitality Ulster, said: “Hospitality businesses are an integral part of our city, town and village high streets and have suffered considerably due to the impact of Covid. The High Street Scheme is a really welcome and important way we can all support our struggling high street businesses.

“Supporting the high street not only helps the businesses, it also supports the jobs of our friends and family who work in our hospitality industry.”

Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said: “This scheme is a win-win for our members and our high streets. It will be a significant spending boost for struggling independent retailers as we progress the long road toward recovery.

“70p in every pound spent with an independent retailer is recycled around the economy, supporting local producers, farmers and manufacturers. So it is vital that consumers make a special effort to spend this pre-paid card with local traders to ensure the widest possible boost to our economy.”


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