Belfast Telegraph

Business body calls for growth fund

A £250 million fund should be established by the Northern Ireland Executive to help companies in the region grow, a leading business body has urged.

That level of financial backing from ministers would demonstrate that the administration is serious about encouraging local firms, according to the regional chair of the Institute of Directors (IoD).

Mervyn McCall made the call at the annual IoD NI dinner in the Europa Hotel, Belfast.

Mr McCall claimed the European Investment Bank was to likely co-finance a fund of that size.

"The money needs to cover all aspects of our economy - high-tech start ups, budding entrepreneurs, first time exporters and established businesses requiring funding for growth and working capital," he said.

"I don't believe it's possible for the banks to begin lending again on the scale required any time soon and we can't wait for the next initiative from No 11.

"To date, none of George Osborne's programmes have had any effect on businesses in Northern Ireland. We need a local solution."

Calling for an export-focused business community, Mr McCall stressed the IoD's view that a reduction in corporation tax was needed.

The UK Government is considering devolving the power to set business tax rates to the Executive but no decision has been made. If the responsibility was transferred it would enable ministers to bring the rate down to a level similar to that operating in the Republic of Ireland.

"Northern Ireland suffers because of its lack of competitiveness," said Mr McCall. "In areas like Newry or Derry, the Republic may only be a few miles away but it is an impossible gap as far as taxes are concerned."

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