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Editor's Viewpoint

Investment from Stormont welcome but consumer confidence needs to be restored

Editor's Viewpoint


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'The public has a key role to play. They need to be reassured that it is safe to venture back into the retailing hubs of the province and they will also want to know that stocks of the goods and products they desire are on the shelves and racks.' Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

'The public has a key role to play. They need to be reassured that it is safe to venture back into the retailing hubs of the province and they will also want to know that stocks of the goods and products they desire are on the shelves and racks.' Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

'The public has a key role to play. They need to be reassured that it is safe to venture back into the retailing hubs of the province and they will also want to know that stocks of the goods and products they desire are on the shelves and racks.' Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Rebooting the economy will take much more than simply declaring that various premises or facilities can reopen. It is already clear that consumer confidence has yet to be restored fully and that retailers are struggling to attract footfall.

With that in mind it is encouraging that the Executive is to invest £11m - £6m of which will be made available immediately - to support the economic recovery in town and city centres.

The money will be used to brighten up the environment in the town and city centres and install digital screens which will carry important health messages.

One vital project which could transform the fortunes of Belfast is the proposed York Street Exchange to ease the bottleneck when the Westlink, M2 and M3 meet.

The plans have been bogged down in legal challenges and it is now time that work begins as soon as possible. A short sharp external review is promised which could cement the plans and hopefully that timetable will be adhered to and work can start.

This was one of the enticements in the document which led to the restoration of Stormont in January this year and funding is available. While a project of this scale will take a considerable time to complete, it will be a sign of faith in the future of Belfast as the province's chief economic location which will have an unrivalled network of roads leading to other parts of the province and to the docks for exports and imports.

The Executive is to be commended for the financial assistance it has given alongside special payments from the Treasury to boost economic recovery.

However, it cannot be expected to keep pouring money into firms and businesses must also realise that they will have to make special efforts to overcome the challenges they face.

The public has a key role to play. They need to be reassured that it is safe to venture back into the retailing hubs of the province and they will also want to know that stocks of the goods and products they desire are on the shelves and racks.

Certainly many people will be cautious with their spending due to uncertainty over the sustainability of their own employment, but the future economic viability of city and town centres will largely depend on consumers. The infrastructure is being put in place and now it is up to ordinary people to play their part.

Belfast Telegraph