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Belfast Chamber Manifesto 2016

Published 7 September 2016

The Belfast Chamber of Trade & Commerce launched their Manifesto at Stormont’s Parliament Buildings on Tuesday 6th September. Read below our summary of the event.

With 400 members, the Belfast Chamber represents a range of sectors throughout the city and is essentially the voice of businesses in Belfast. The Chamber lobbies successfully on a range of diverse and important issues that affect business people throughout the city.

The Manifesto sets out plans not only for the immediate future, but also serves as a blueprint for Belfast for the next 10 years. The theme of the 2016 Manifesto is simple but effective: Put Belfast First.

The event, held in the impressive Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings, was opened by Chamber President and MKB Law Director, Gordon McElroy. Gordon took time to thank the Finance Minister, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, for providing the facilities at Stormont for the Chamber’s Manifesto launch.

Belfast Lord Mayor, Brian Kingston, then addressed the audience; firstly by reasserting the close working relationship between the City Council and the Chamber, and praising their combined efforts to represent the views and needs of businesses throughout the city.

Merchant Hotel and Beannchor Group owner, Bill Wolsey, then offered his first hand views and experiences on running a successful business in Belfast city centre.

Mr Wolsey went on to praise the excellent work and life balance that Belfast offers before finishing with an anecdote about a young schoolboy who offered to ‘match-make’ him with his Mother – although politely declining, Mr Wolsey was left impressed by the ‘entrepreneurial’ skills of Northern Ireland’s young people today!

Chamber President, Gordon McElroy, then set about detailing the core principles outlined in the manifesto:

1) A Self Governing City – the manifesto proposes that Belfast should be moving towards a self-governing city (similar to Helsinki and Manchester), with Belfast City Council as the dominant authority for the city.

2) Access and Infrastructure – the manifesto outlines the need for a world-class, sustainable transport system within Belfast in order to achieve growth going forward, including: road, rail and air connections. It is also noted that cars within the city centre should not be perceived as the ‘enemy’ but rather as potential clients, customers, investors and visitors.

3) A Tech City – the manifesto believes that Belfast should be in a position to offer the fastest broadband speeds within Ireland in order to attract investors who are willing to setup new business in the city. The manifesto also praises the expansion of University of Ulster within Belfast and the educational opportunities it will bring to the next generations.

4) Fairer Rates and Taxes – the manifesto notes that businesses in the city centre contribute 65% of the rates income of the entire City Council, and outlines the need for rates incentives within the city to encourage investment – especially in regard to vacant building office space.

5) Reinvent the City Centre – this section of the manifesto covers a number of areas dedicated to the reinvention and regeneration of the city, including: growth of independent retailers, extended Sunday opening hours, growth of city living, modernised licensing laws, and the promotion of sport and culture within the city.

The Chamber wants to see not only Belfast, but Northern Ireland as a whole flourish; and believe that the Government must put Belfast at the heart of all policies. The Chamber firmly asserts that by putting Belfast first, the rest of the region will follow.

And with a nod to one of Northern Ireland’s biggest successes – Game of Thrones – Gordon concludes the event by describing us all as the ‘stewards’ of Belfast in Business; putting the relevant policies in place to hand onto future generations.

For more information on the Belfast Manifesto, please visit the Belfast Chamber website

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