SMALL businesses in Northern Ireland will continue to face huge increases in their insurance bills unless initiatives are taken to attract more underwriters to Northern Ireland, according to East Belfast Alliance Councillor Naomi Long.
Following a recent meeting between Alliance representatives and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), it was revealed that some businesses have seen premiums rise by 50-100% in a year whilst others have been unable to obtain cover at all.
Cllr Long has now delivered a survey to homes across East Belfast giving business owners the chance to say how they have been affected by increased insurance premiums over the past few years, in the hope that the information can be used to put pressure on the Government to act.
Cllr Long said: “It is quite clear that Government action is required to tackle this problem, which is costing our economy hundreds of jobs. There has undoubtedly been a global increase in the cost of insurance following September 11. However, the increases in Northern Ireland are disproportionately large, mainly due to the small number of local underwriters. More must be done to attract underwriters to Northern Ireland to ensure that all businesses can access insurance.
“Many small businesses in East Belfast have suffered a huge financial blow due to a dip in the local economy, following the loss of thousands of manufacturing jobs over the last couple of years. Insurance increases are a further blow for struggling businesses and, for some, may be the final straw. Many voluntary groups, clubs and community sector organisations are also facing a major struggle to keep up with increased payments.
“It is vital that we take a close look at the extent of the problem and so, as a result of our discussions with the FSB, we are asking business people across East Belfast tell us about their experiences. This will help to inform the debate and, hopefully, force the Government to act.”