Businesses want action not the Assembly

The inaugural Northern Ireland Business Monitor 2004-2005 has found that a whopping 77% of the 2,000 businesses surveyed felt that the Assembly suspension has had no effect on them. Only 16% said the suspension made their situation worse.

However, the report suggests that “many businesses do not see local politicians as being adequately supportive of local businesses”.

“The absence of the Assembly was significant in making prospects worse
for the farming businesses (28%) and construction (23%). All the other sectors eported adverse impacts on less than
18% of the respondents. Reciprocally, in these other sectors over 75% said the suspension made no difference.”

One trend revealed by the four surveys is that regard for the supportiveness of local politicians seems to be falling.

“In the first quarter of 2005, 25% of local politicians were credited with being supportive in helping local business. This contrasted with 29% in the Spring quarter of 2004. In contrast, the
proportion regarded as unsupportive rose from 38% in early 2004 to 41%
earlier this year.
49% of farm business executives see a supportive role from local
politicians while the next highest perception of support comes from the providers of professional services: 35%. All the other
sectors attract less than 30% making this assessment.

“The most critical views of the unsupportive relationship with local
politicians came from manufacturers (45%), distribution (39%), leisure services (39%) and construction (37%).”

While praising the region’s broadband access, the firms surveyed said the introduction of a corporate tax regime which “levels the playing field” would be the greatest incentive to enterprise growth.
A majority support the introduction of the euro (54% say yes now or when conditions are right) although a big minority still say no (36% say never).

The key messages businesses send out in the report are:
Lower business insurance premiums (59%)
Reduce red tape (51%)
Introduce a special trading status for Northern Ireland (that would give a more favourable tax regime) (28%)
Better vocational training arrangements (18%)
Support a more entrepreneurial culture (19%)

The farming sector continues to perform poorly with just 10% reporting a turnover in the first 3 months of 2005 while, at the other end of the spectrum, 44% of businesses that are providing
professional services said that turnover had increased.

  • criostoir mac aoidh

    IMHO what we need in NI are directly elected, locally accountable Mayors per the French model. I’m talking mini Mayors of Donaghadee or Ballymaccarret – people with authority to change the local infrastructure. Someone to point the finger at when there isn’t enough car parking behind the Newtownards Rd or to ask why there’s still a gaping hole on Bangor’s Queen’s Parade after all these years. They should be answerable to residents and local traders associations.

    Our current local government seems too big / distant to deal with / be accountable for the everyday and too small to oversee our major public services (schools, hospitals, policing etc).

    Personally if we had decent county sized local government (also with a directly elected Lord Mayor, prefect, what you will, and local reponsive mairies I’m not sure I care about the NI assembly. Our politicians are rubbish at bringing in external investment anyway. Who’d send Paisley or Adams to meet the potential internatonal investor off the plane? We could outsource that to Bertie and the IDA.

  • Brian Boru

    How do they know when the Assembly hardly had any time to do any constructive for businesses, being brought down by the Unionists 4 times? Anyway, Northern Nationalists have the right to a proper say in the running of that place. So do Unionists for that matter.

  • IJP

    many businesses do not see local politicians as being adequately supportive of local businesses

    Correct.

    But then, that’s partly because too few businesspeople get involved in politics.

    Business (and indeed general economic) policy is fundamentally flawed in NI. You have investment bodies supporting only specific industries (basically boosting call centres while allowing manufacturing to go down the drain), a Department of Enterprise which cannot understand innovation of anything other than product, and the NIO which basically gets in the way of indigenous businesses by handing contracts to big-name outsiders regardless of real ability.

    It’s nonsense – but it’ll stay that way if businessfolk keep taking a ‘holier than thou’ attitude to politics. The logical follow-on of ‘Don’t vote, can’t complain’ is ‘Don’t stand, can’t really complain’.

  • croistoir mac aoidh

    We’ve had direct rule so long that the only way for business to meaningfully engage with politics has been through bodies such as the IOD or CoC interfacing with the NIO. The local alternative is to get involved with local development partnerships and traders associations. Local business people do this.

    Reputation’s everything in local business and it’s hard to stand on a business first / leave constitutional politics for the MLA’s ticket.

  • Henry94

    The biggest danger is that we have institutions so powerless that they can only offer variations on the theme of new labour economics to the frustration of voters who don’t agree with it. I think we need to have full devolution of economic and fiscal policy.

    First we have to prove that we can handle the powers we will have. Then build a consensus for the kind of radical devolution that we really need.