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Treasury cannot wait until autumn to act on cost-of-living crisis, Murphy warns

The finance minister said businesses facing soaring bills need extra support.

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Conor Murphy (Mark Marlow/PA)

Conor Murphy (Mark Marlow/PA)

Conor Murphy (Mark Marlow/PA)

The Treasury cannot wait until the autumn to take action to support businesses struggling with soaring bills, the finance minister has said.

Conor Murphy expressed concern that further mitigations may not materialise until the UK Government unveils its autumn statement.

He was commenting as he spoke with business owners on a visit to Portaferry.

Mr Murphy urged Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi to act immediately to support businesses facing rocketing energy prices and other inflationary pressures.

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L-R Hospitality Ulster Chief Executive and Finance Minister Conor Murphy meet Jacqueline and James Higginson during a visit to Portaferry

L-R Hospitality Ulster Chief Executive and Finance Minister Conor Murphy meet Jacqueline and James Higginson during a visit to Portaferry

L-R Hospitality Ulster Chief Executive and Finance Minister Conor Murphy meet Jacqueline and James Higginson during a visit to Portaferry

The minister said the recent ending of a temporary reduction in the VAT rate for leisure and hospitality sectors was having a “detrimental impact”.

“Just like households our businesses are facing a cost crisis,” he said.

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“The measures taken by the British Government to date have failed to deliver support for businesses, which are under immense pressure as a result of increased fuel and energy costs.

“These pressures are set against a backdrop of trying to recover from the impact of the pandemic.

“Treasury cannot wait until the autumn to take action, the reality is that this may be too late for some businesses. It is imperative that they take action now.”

During his visit, Mr Murphy met James Higginson, proprietor of Captain Jack’s restaurant and takeaway.

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Finance Minister Conor Murphy with Board member Naomi Bailie Doran and Manager Dr Verity Peet during a visit to the Portico of Ards in Portaferry

Finance Minister Conor Murphy with Board member Naomi Bailie Doran and Manager Dr Verity Peet during a visit to the Portico of Ards in Portaferry

Finance Minister Conor Murphy with Board member Naomi Bailie Doran and Manager Dr Verity Peet during a visit to the Portico of Ards in Portaferry

The chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, Colin Neill, also attended.

He said: “We welcome that Minister Murphy is out on the ground in Portaferry meeting directly with business owners and listening to the experiences of a number of sectors, including those from the hospitality industry, about the pressures owners and managers are under.

“Energy prices, labour shortages, increased overheads and tightening consumer spending are making the current trading environment very difficult and there is no end in sight.

“The problems are clear, but we now have to move into solution-finding mode and are willing to work with the minister to see what more can be done to support the wider business community.”

The minister also visited the Portico of Ards, an arts venue and Presbyterian church.

The centre recently received almost £100,000 in support from the Dormant Accounts Fund – an initiative delivered by the National Lottery Community Fund in conjunction with Department of Finance.

Mr Murphy also spent time in Nugent’s Wood, a community woodland at the edge of Portaferry that received funding from the PEACE IV Programme to provide improvements to the walking trail.


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