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Assembly Speech- Take Note Debate On Economic Downturn 15/12/2008

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Today is a good day for devolution in Northern Ireland.  The Executive has been responsive to needs right across the entire community and in line with the statements from the energy companies today on the reduction of energy costs and the fuel poverty issues that the Assembly has addressed.

And it is for sure that under a direct rule situation these matters would not even have been on the radar of the direct rule ministers.                                                                                                                                                                  
This Assembly in setting the Programme for Government agreed the need to build for our future economic prosperity and the foundations were laid upon the encouragement of and the development of our current business base.

We are a small business economy, we don’t have enough of the larger multi-national, branded companies and our average business pays only around £1200 in rates per annum.

The small business rates relief scheme to be introduced in 2010 and the freeze on the business rate will offer them the opportunity to compete on a level playing field with their competitors in Scotland and Wales. 

Locally owned small businesses are the life-blood of our economy and the need for the Assembly to create the conditions that will enable them to grow and prosper has never been greater.                                                                                   
This Assembly will never be satisfied, nor should it be that satisfied on help for those facing hardship, but the, Executive acting in concert, has addressed outstanding issues and we are in a better place today than we were at the end of last week.

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