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Northern Ireland looks to emulate success of Jersey's Spend Local cards earlier this year

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It is hoped that the voucher scheme will provide a much needed boost to the Northern Ireland high street

It is hoped that the voucher scheme will provide a much needed boost to the Northern Ireland high street

John Le Fondre

John Le Fondre

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It is hoped that the voucher scheme will provide a much needed boost to the Northern Ireland high street

Northern Ireland has been looking to Jersey to see how it implemented a retail voucher scheme earlier this year as our own version is planned for early 2021.

As part of a Covid-19 economic stimulus, the Channel Island's government provided pre-paid Spend Local cards with £100 on each in September, to be spent by the end of October.

The cards went out to around 108,000 people, including children, who were given paper vouchers, with the initiative expected to cost around £11m.

And its authorities did not impose tight rules on how the cards should be spent.

Instead, residents were given freedom to spend them where and how they wished - with the stipulation that the money could not be spent online, and could not be used to obtain cash through cashback or withdrawal, or for gambling.

But there was gentle encouragement from the Chief Minister John Le Fondré to invest in the island by treating yourself.

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John Le Fondre

John Le Fondre

John Le Fondre

He said at the time: "Use it for meals, for experiences, for clothes, for new products or to treat yourself and your family."

The cards could be used to buy cigarettes or alcohol if a cardholder so wished to.

And that relatively laissez-faire approach is also being adopted by the Department for the Economy as it doesn't wish to tell people how the money should be spent.

One Jersey resident said that retailers there had been able to make the scheme more lucrative for themselves and customers, for example, by offering a further discount where goods were being paid for by the card.

That's similar to how the UK-wide Eat Out to Help Out scheme was adapted by restaurants here who extended it further beyond its August deadline, albeit without the subsidy.

According to the island's Bailiwick Express newspaper, more than 2,000 Jersey businesses benefited, bringing £10m into the economy. That is less than the £11m cost but it's still regarded as a good way to get money into the economy.

John Le Fondré said data around how and where the money had been spent would also be closely examined That data will also be scrutinised to see what lessons there are for NI. Islanders were also told to hold onto their cards in case there would be money for a top-up - a message which will also be relayed in Northern Ireland.

Belfast Telegraph


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