THE Stormont Executive has announced £200m worth of funding to boost the economy and jobs in Northern Ireland.
But it could be too late to save the 300 jobs about to go at Patton Construction in Ballymena.
This week it called in the administrator as it could no longer stem the tide of mounting debts from creditors, including suppliers and sub contractors.
The Executive’s measures include paid placements for over-50s who have been out of work, and 900 new apprenticeships.
The small business rate relief scheme will also be extended to provide 3,500 business with a 20% discount.
First Minister Peter Robinson said the initiatives would provide a “significant boost” to the economy.
Highlights of the investment package include:
- Waged employment opportunities for 1,700 young people for a minimum of six months.
- Around 1,100 over-50s who have been out of work for more than 12 months will get 26 weeks’ employment in the community and voluntary sector.
- 900 additional young people will participate in the Youth Employment Scheme.
- An additional 500 undergraduate places will be made available in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.
- Small business rate relief scheme will be extended to provide around 3,500 business rate payers with a 20% discount.
- Car parking charges in towns and city centres will be frozen untill 2015.
- An additional £15m will be made available for farmers in their Single Farm Payment.
- More than £40m will be made available to support the construction sector.
- The maintenance budget for schools will be increased by £10m in 2013/14
First Minister Robinson said he hoped the measure would “grow the economy and contribute to rising levels of employment”.
The Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, said the measures would help those hardest hit. “The Executive is responding flexibly to the needs of those hit hardest by the recession and taking action to ensure those out of work have access to the right training, skills and education opportunities.
“These employment measures are particularly focused on the needs of young people to help them get into work,” he said.
“The Executive is already committed to delivering over £5billion of capital investment in the current budget period. To boost employment in the construction sector this package will deliver a range of new measures to improve our schools, roads and accelerate nearly £60million of capital projects.”
Glyn Roberts from the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) has welcomed the announcement by the Executive.
“We welcome this economic package and in particular the further extension of the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme and the freezing of Car Park Charges until 2015.
“We lobbied Ministers extensively for action on reducing business rates and addressing car park charges to support local traders and Town Centres and are very pleased that both feature prominently in this package
“The new Invest NI Skills Growth and the Finance Voucher schemes to assist small businesses are positive developments to help our struggling small business sector
“While this package is not a ‘silver bullet’ in addressing our huge economic challenges, it does include practical and imaginative solutions to assisting retailers and small businesses get through the worst of this recession and toward a sustainable recovery,” he said.