Dickson disappointed by Minister during Excluded meeting but retains hope for progress on issue

Alliance Economy spokesperson Stewart Dickson MLA has described as “disappointing” a meeting with the Economy Minister regarding traders excluded from her grant schemes, but said he hopes progress will still be made in achieving parity for them.

Mr Dickson was speaking after meeting with Diane Dodds, alongside members of the Excluded NI group. The organisation consists of sole traders and social enterprises among others, who were unable to benefit from the Department for the Economy’s financial schemes in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“This was a disappointing meeting, as the Minister clearly has a vision for her grant schemes that doesn’t apply to the estimated 30,000 businesspeople who are part of Excluded NI,” said the East Antrim MLA.

“That one-size-fits-all approach has been proven to not work, with many social enterprises, micro-traders and sole traders not fitting into the categories provided for the grants schemes. What we need is a more tailored plan, breaking things down to bite-size pieces more relevant to these businesses. Not all of them need the full financial support and by grouping similar organisations and traders, that could be achieved far more easily.

“However, the Departmental officials were more forthcoming in their approach today, with a realisation more needs to be done to support these traders. We have been given a guarantee of an examination of these issues and a reply within the next three weeks. I hope that gives some silver lining to members of the Excluded NI group that they will be left behind no longer.”