Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has said Invest NI schemes to support businesses impacted by COVID19 must be effective and accessible.
Speaking on the uptake of two business support schemes launched last month, the party’s economy spokesperson said:
“It would be unacceptable if schemes that are being designed and put in place as business supports are not effectively reaching businesses.
“At committee on Wednesday the Chief Executive of Invest NI told committee members that the Digital Selling Capability Grant scheme to help retailers and wholesalers had 30 applications and they were expecting further applications before closure and the Equity Investment Fund targeted at early stage and seed stage SMEs had four applications but it was targeted at a smaller number of businesses.
“I put it to Invest NI at the Economy Committee that there needs to be greater transparency from Invest NI around the design and rationale for their business supports and I put that to them.
“The Economy Minister needs to be accountable for how funding awarded to her Department which goes to its Arms Length Bodies is being spent.
“Earlier this year the Microbusiness Hardship Fund which was administered by Invest NI on behalf of the Department for the Economy resulted in a significant underspend after the criteria excluded a number of groups of businesses from being able to access it; we must not see a pattern emerge of underspend in business support schemes.
“Earlier this week a further Invest NI scheme was launched which will provide qualifying SMEs with up to £8000 for consultancy. What I am hearing from businesses now is that they need practical funding supports not money to pay consultants.
“I will continue to raise these issues with both the Minister and Invest NI directly.”