Dear Chamber Member,
I hope you, your families and colleagues are well.
As we all make efforts to normalise our experience of this pandemic, and as we prepare to encounter the challenges of Brexit first hand, it is clear that this and the next few budgets and the management of our national finances thereafter will define the prospects of a generation. Government must be commended for producing an ambitious and thorough budget for 2021, and we will continue to work with Government to ensure a sustainable and resilient future for Cork.
The commitment to an increase of almost €2 billion in capital expenditure bringing spend to €10.1 billion will be essential to provide some degree of continuity to the construction sector over the coming year, and most importantly to give assurance to the business and wider community that a positive legacy of functional infrastructure will be put in place while this pandemic wears on. For Cork it is essential that there is a strong visual infrastructural legacy in place by the time Budget day comes around again. Commitment to the Dunkettle interchange will be valuable to the Cork economy. Further progress must be made in areas such as CMATS implementation urban accommodation, and education.
Tourism, Arts and Hospitality
Clarity for Cork Airport in relation to capital and cashflow supports is positive but more will be required. However beyond today, firm commitment to EU travel standards and testing and the ability to implement without delay is essential. Without a functioning Airport, supports for tourism and hospitality such as the VAT reduction while welcome can only be partially successful at best.
A widening of the tax free voucher system from €500 to €1000 would have provided a great boost to the drive for local spend in retail, arts and hospitality and it is disappointing that such a straightforward measure could not be taken. However, a €50 million increase in Arts Council funding to €130 million, €50 million for live entertainment, an additional €55million tourism support scheme, and €5m for Tourism Product Development will undoubtedly be helpful.
Continued funding for the EWSS throughout 2021 is a significant action that will provide continuity for business. The rates waivers extension is a key pillar of the business support matrix, and it must be further extended into 2021. The addition of the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) for businesses that effectively cease trading as a result of restrictions is practical but as ever the focus for everyone must be on ensuring that we do not find ourselves in deeper levels of restriction. Furthermore, the €1.1bn in additional funding to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment will undoubtedly have a positive and proactive impact on the ground by supporting local enterprise, SMEs, further funding for R&D, the Credit Guarantee Scheme and the Future Growth Loan Scheme.
For SME’s it is essential that the effectiveness of business supports are kept under constant review. It is not appropriate to simply draw a line in the sand for 12 months and the €2.1bn contingency fund is important in this regard. We will continue to work with Government to ensure that what we have is fit for purpose.
The UK-EU withdrawal will undoubtedly prove economically damaging, in some instances hitting businesses that have weathered the pandemic well. The additional €3.4billion buffer, may prove essential.
However, government could have done significantly more to invest in the affordability of childcare which will remain a critical factor that defines the diversity of our workforce.
The emphasis on climate action for 2021 is progressive. Given the significance of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Bill, is essential that more is done to support decarbonisation over forthcoming budgets. The competitive nature of the first round of Renewable Electricity Support Scheme shows the pent up developer market awaiting activation and the business community is increasingly aware of its legacy and the necessity to make the switch in order to be relevant to an increasingly conscientious and mobile talent pool. The acceleration in this space is incredible and it is essential that Ireland does more to keep up.
As we now look ahead to the closing weeks of 2020, it is clear that we must do our utmost as a community to contain the spread of the virus. For those who can work from home, I urge you to do so. It is only through our collective efforts that we can protect our communities and build economic resilience for Cork.
We continue to represent the interests of our members in Cork and I encourage you to engage with the Chamber team, sharing your feedback and the issues relevant to your business. #CorkTogether
President of Cork Chamber