Local MP, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, has been fighting hard in the corner of Northern Ireland’s travel agents, seeking a continuation of the furlough scheme for the sector from the UK government and clarity on the repayments of loans, which many businesses were forced to take out to cover ongoing bills.
Mr Donaldson has raised the issue of the extension of the Furloughing Scheme for businesses in the travel sector with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and has also asked that “Ministers in the Northern Ireland Executive join me in making representations to the Treasury about this matter”.
Recognising the unique and extremely difficult situation travel agents across the Province have found themselves in due to the global restrictions on travel, Mr Donaldson says that he hopes “that the Government will recognise the continuing pressures faced by businesses in this important sector and will agree to extend the Furloughing Scheme for a further period”.
Mr Donaldson’s letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer was passed to Treasury Minister John P. Glen.
In his letter of response, seen by Northern Ireland Travel News, Mr Glen explains that the government feels that “together, the 12-month payment holiday and interest-free period for borrowers, along with the PAYG options, provide a generous support package giving businesses the time to get back on their feet”, however he failed to address the issue of continuing the furlough scheme for travel agents, or clarify how travel agents, who are still struggling to survive due to the government’s ongoing travel restrictions and ever-changing traffic-light system, are going to find the funds to make repayments on the loans OR retain staff once the furlough scheme ends.
The letter reads (excerpt): “The Government launched BBLS on 4 May 2020 to ensure that the smallest businesses could access loans of up to £50,000 to help businesses through this difficult period.
“Under BBLS no repayments are due from the borrower for the first 12 months of
the loan, giving businesses the breathing space they need during this difficult time.
“In addition, the Government covers the first 12 months of interest payments charged to the business by the lender.”
“Together, the 12-month payment holiday and interest-free period for borrowers, along with the PAYG options, provide a generous support package giving businesses the time to get back on their feet.”
Sandra Corkin of Oasis Travel said that the response was a “welcome start”. She said: “This is just a response from the treasury minister and it is a welcome start that businesses with loans have this help. Sir Jeffrey has also written to the Gordon Lyons Economy Minister and the Chancellor for tailored support so their response will be critical.”