High Street Scheme

Oral Answers to Questions — Economy – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 6 December 2021.

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Photo of Órlaithí Flynn Órlaithí Flynn Sinn Féin 2:30, 6 December 2021

T2. Ms Flynn asked the Minister for the Economy what is being done to ensure that those people who, as of today, have not received a Spend Local card will receive a card before the deadline, given that some £6 million was allocated to administer the high street scheme and an email was issued, with a deadline of midnight on Sunday, for people who had enquiries about non-receipt of their card. (AQT 1862/17-22)

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

I thank the Member for her question. This issue was raised earlier. I made the point that we are doing everything that we can to make sure that everybody who was verified gets their card. That includes moving to next-day delivery so that we make sure that people get their card as soon as possible. We have a team in the Department that is going through those emails and trying to get those cards out. We are doing everything that we can. We understand the concerns that exist. Another 4,500 cards went out today. More will be sent out in the coming days. I hope that people will get those as soon as possible so that they can spend them locally.

Photo of Órlaithí Flynn Órlaithí Flynn Sinn Féin

I hope that that will reassure people. We are all getting enquiries from those who have not physically received their card, so, hopefully, that is in process.

The rationale behind the scheme was about creating a stimulus for the economy. Can the Department, even at this early stage, provide any estimates as to how much of a stimulus has been created?

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

We know that £115 million has been spent in our local economy. You will be aware, I am sure, of the figures from Retail NI. When we spend local, 63% of it is recycled in the local economy. It is too early to say exactly what the impact has been, but we know that it has been incredible; it has had a fantastic effect on the footfall in our town and city centres over the past month in particular. It is really important that we have that in place for the footfall alone, but there will be longer-term economic benefits that come from that as well. As I said earlier, people are going back to the high street, including after they have used their card. It is about a short-term economic boost, but it is also about getting interest back in our high streets and showing people what there is on offer. When you go physically in to a shop, you can buy something and take it home that day. There is also customer service. All of that is in one place. The feedback from retail in particular has been fantastic.