COVID grants welcome but concerns remain, says Muir

Alliance Finance spokesperson Andrew Muir has cautiously welcomed new business support grants but said concerns remain over who receives the money.

Finance Minister Conor Murphy announced the £178 million for the almost 200,000 local firms eligible for it. The money is expected to be paid next month.

“There is much to welcome in the schemes announced today,” said Mr Muir.

“It includes money for firms unfairly excluded from COVID-19 support grants for much of the past year, and Alliance consistently championed their cause such as those with a high rateable value. I am glad some of these businesses will finally receive the support they deserve.

“I am, however, concerned some of the funding announced could be allocated to those who have done relatively well during the pandemic, and therefore whose need is not the greatest. The Minister must put in place simple and straightforward arrangements whereby businesses are able to hand money back if they do not need it, as we saw last year with the major supermarkets.

“While it is important COVID-19 money has not been handed back to Westminster, the scale of the last-minute spending is concerning, particularly in terms of ensuring value for money. The Finance Minister must take some responsibility for this, as it is partly the result of the lack of a strategic approach to COVID-19 financial support.”