Chamber News

Chambers Ireland today (8th June 2020) welcomes news from the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, that the Trading Online Voucher Scheme has received additional funding.

Speaking this afternoon, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “Today’s announcement from Minister Humphreys and Minister Bruton that an additional €14.2 million will be made available for the Trading Online Scheme will be widely welcomed by businesses all over the country.

“The demand for the Scheme over the past number of months has been significant. The ability to trade online has been a lifeline for so many businesses during the lockdown and will continue to be a valuable support, even as we move to Phase Two of reopening the economy. We had been raising the need for additional funding with Minister Humphreys, and so today’s news will be a relief to the many still hoping to apply.

“COVID-19 has been extremely challenging for our local economies, and we are by no means out of the woods just yet. However, the capacity of businesses to innovate, particularly SMEs, during lockdown has proven to be a saving grace for so many retail and hospitality businesses.

“Our message to Government is to emphasise that businesses have suffered immense economic damage over the past two to three months and will require as much financial support from the State in Phase Two and future phases, as they did during the lockdown.

“If this support does not materialise, we risk permanently losing jobs over the coming months, further compounding the damage to the Irish economy. We call on this Government, and the next, to ensure that businesses are appropriately supported to trade through this pandemic. All supports, financial and otherwise, must be made available in a timely and accessible manner, so that the recovery reaches all sectors, in all parts of the country.”

Chambers Ireland welcomes this afternoon’s announcement (5th June 2020) that the “Roadmap to Re-Opening the Economy” will be escalated and compressed to four stages, rather five, and that we can now progress to Phase Two. This signals that we are through the worst of the COVID-19 outbreak, and returning, with caution, to normality.

Speaking this afternoon, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “Getting the balance right between supporting the economy and livelihoods, while also protecting public health, is no easy task. The responsibility of Government in making these decisions is an unenviable one. The business community has shown leadership throughout the crisis, and now that the worst of the Coronavirus outbreak has been quelled, news that an easing of restrictions can now occur will be widely welcomed by our members.

“We have cautioned throughout the crisis that reopening the economy will not be as straightforward as shutting it down. Businesses have suffered immense economic damage over the past two to three months. They will require as much financial support from the State in these phases as they did during the lockdown. If this support does not materialise, we risk permanently losing jobs, and job creators, over the coming months. This will further compound the damage to the Irish economy and restrict our ability to recover quickly.

“The announcement that the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) will be retained until August is extremely welcome, and necessary in supporting the recovery. As we move to Phase Two, we call on Government to work with us in determining what interventions will be required to support different sectors, including retail, manufacturing, tourism, and hospitality.

“However, the absence of clarity on whether the scheme will be opened for new applicants is concerning. Many businesses were not eligible for the TWSS during the lockdown due to lack of liquidity. As these businesses reopen in circumstances where their viability is constrained, wage supports will be crucial.

“We have also repeatedly raised the issue that under the current Guidelines of the scheme replacement staff cannot be hired. This must be altered. We would ask that the Minister work with Revenue to alter the Scheme so that it supports the needs of business.

“We remind Government, and the parties who are negotiating to form the next Government, that the wider needs of the economy must not be forgotten. Investing in our town centres, in infrastructure and in housing was our priority issue ahead of the February election. 

“This has not changed, and in many ways, is now more important. The economy will not recover unless it is sustained through public spending and investment.”

Ahead of this morning’s (5th June 2020) Cabinet meeting, Chambers Ireland welcomed Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe, in a digital briefing to Chief Executives and Directors of our network of 40 Chambers across the country.

The Minister briefed the Chamber Network on the economic decisions taken so far to protect incomes and to protect employers, both of whom are operating in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. The Minister also emphasised the need to target future economic interventions in a way that best supports the economy.

Speaking this morning, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “The value of constructive dialogue was evident in this morning’s briefing, and we thank the Minister for his time and his engagement.

“Our message to Government has been consistent throughout the crisis. Unprecedented financial interventions will be required, to support the liquidity and viability of so many businesses who have been impacted by COVID-19.

“Across the board, our members called on the Minister to indicate that the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme will continue beyond its initial deadline. Without this certainty, businesses cannot plan for their reopening until they know what the government will do to support them. The Scheme must also be reopened to new applicants and reformed so that it can protect jobs and ensure the resilience of the long-term needs of the economy.

“Further, our members shared the Minister’s objective that public health must remain the priority of policy, but that this must be paired with a strategy for how we can meaningfully support business. The difficult task of reopening during a pandemic should not be underestimated. As we exit Phase One and look to how we manage the phased reopening of the economy, from retail, to manufacturing to tourism and hospitality, sector and region-specific interventions will be required.

“Regarding the wider needs of the economy, and this will ultimately be a matter for the next Government, the priority issue for Chambers remains the need to invest in our infrastructure, in our towns and in our cities.

Government action to sustain investment through this shock will be hugely important, and as emphasised by the European Commission’s Country-Specific Recommendations for Ireland, public spending and public investment should be non-negotiable. We cannot afford another lost decade and so, public investment must be at the centre of the next Programme for Government.”

Speaking this afternoon (3rd June 2020), following the publication of the May Exchequer Returns, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said,

“The Exchequer Returns today are a stark reminder of the impact COVID-19 has had not only on the health of our people, but on our economy. If these businesses are to recover in the months ahead, they will need every assistance to do so. It is also vital that we restore taxation levels as rapidly as possible to ensure that we can continue to meet the Government’s increasing Current Expenditure commitments to deal with the consequences of this crisis.

“The collapse in VAT and Excise receipts in the Returns demonstrate the severe difficulty that retail and hospitality businesses are facing, and will continue to face, for some time to come. While protecting public health must remain the priority, this must be paired with a strategy for how we can meaningfully support business to begin the difficult task of reopening.

“To that end, it is crucial that there is greater collaboration between the economic and health advisors to Government to inform the difficult, but necessary decisions needed in the coming weeks, as we move to reopen the economy.

“As we come to the end of Phase One, there must be genuine engagement from Government on the kinds of financial supports that will need to be in place. This includes not only the retention of the Wage Subsidy Scheme and an extension of the Commercial Rates waiver, but also requires creative thinking in how we fund the redesign of our town centres so that they can support businesses to trade and consumers to return.

“Since the onset of this crisis, our members have been clear that the scale of the economic crisis will require an unprecedented fiscal response from Government. We cannot ignore the fact that job creators, many of whom are SMEs, are the backbone of the economy.

“If these businesses fail and if jobs are permanently lost, then our recovery will take much longer, and be much more costly.

“Regarding the wider needs of the economy, Government action to sustain investment through this shock will be hugely important. In line with the European Commission’s Country-Specific Recommendations for Ireland, public spending and public investment should be non-negotiable.

“We cannot afford another lost decade and so, public investment must be at the centre of the next Programme for Government.”

Lets Get Back To Business Live Webinar

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Chambers Ireland, today (31st May 2020), calls on the next Government to make a commitment that the Department of the Taoiseach will lead a sufficiently resourced, cross-departmental National Taskforce to revive our town centres in a new post-pandemic world. The overarching objective of this Taskforce must be to enhance liveability, increase housing supply and support sustainable, active transport.

In an open letter, Chambers Ireland is joined by its members and several other bodies, associations, and individuals, including the IPI and RIAI, who share this vision and calls for the next Programme for Government to include a national strategy that prioritises sustainable town centres and supports them to thrive.

Open Letter Calling for National Taskforce for Town Centres

“As our local economies begin to reopen, we must remember that the challenges we faced in January are not only still present; they are even more pressing.

Post COVID-19, the question we must ask ourselves is not how do we return to the old normal, but rather how do we make our country more sustainable?

It is by making ourselves a resilient society - offering people sustainable employment in towns and cities, coupled with effective action on climate change - that we will surmount these challenges.

Social distancing requirements have revealed the overwhelming need for safe and people-centred places and environments – our towns and cities must adapt to survive. City and town centres need to be given support at a national level so they can adapt to this “new normal”.

Creative urban design, spatial planning and fiscal policies will be a critical part of the overall solution and must be put in place to support the transition. Unless we take radical action to address reduced footfall, increasing vacancies and declines to commercial activity, we risk exacerbating the economic downturn in towns throughout the country.

We, the under-signed, call for the next Programme for Government to prioritise sustainable town centres and support them to thrive.

Ireland needs the Department of the Taoiseach to lead a sufficiently resourced, cross-departmental National Taskforce to revive our town centres in a new post-pandemic world. The overarching objective must be to enhance liveability, increase housing supply and support sustainable, active transport.

If we do not tackle these crises, with the ambition and vision needed to overcome them, we will fail not only the towns that make up the fabric of our society, but the people, businesses and communities that encompass them.”

Following today’s (29th May 2020) Cabinet meeting, Chambers Ireland welcomes news that the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) will be reformed so that those returning to work from maternity and adoptive leave will be eligible for inclusion.

Speaking this evening, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “In submissions to Government, and in a statement earlier today, we called for immediate action to ensure that workers returning from maternity leave, and other forms of caring leave, would be included in the Scheme.

“This afternoon’s announcement from Minister Donohoe is welcome in this regard. As we move to reopening the economy, it is more important than ever that we enable labour participation, and do not create new obstacles to remaining in, or re-entering, the workplace.

“We also welcome Minister Doherty’s announcement, that her Department will be extending the suspension on redundancy entitlements from the end of this month to the 10 August. This will give clarity and certainty to employers and employees as they plan for the months ahead.

“Although Government continued to give positive indications that the Wage Subsidy Scheme might be maintained beyond the existing cut-off point, we are disappointed that there were no further updates in today’s announcement. Business still lacks clarity on what will, or will not, be in place following the June deadline.

“Without this certainty, businesses cannot plan for their reopening until they know what the government will do to support them.”

WIT main campusWaterford Chamber is calling on Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe to honour his commitment to intervene in the ongoing debacle over the Technological University of the South East.

During a meeting with Waterford Chamber Executive and business leaders last year, Minister Donohue said he would step in if agreements couldn’t be reached in a timely manner.

As of yet there has been no intervention and this week, following the announcement of the Munster Technological University, Waterford Chamber CEO Gerald Hurley has written to the Minister again asking for his intervention.

In the letter, Mr Hurley stated, “It is widely accepted by all stakeholders from across the business community and beyond that the creation of a strong university of international standing is essential to guarantee the future prosperity of Waterford City and the South East.”

PROJECT IRELAND 2040

According to Mr Hurley, “The role of new “technological” universities in regional development is explicit in the national development plan, Project Ireland 2040: “By creating institutions of scale and strength,” the plan indicates, “technological universities will bring greater social and economic benefits to their regions”. The centrality of a new university to Waterford is outlined in detail in the Regional Economic and Spatial Strategy for the Southern Region and in the Metropolitan Area Spatial Plan for Waterford city. In these challenging times for enterprise and for our community, the creation of a new university in the city will help attract talent and business and, through innovation and research, generate myriad transformative opportunities for new types of enterprise and business activity. The €200 million in research and innovation funding that has come to Waterford Institute of Technology in the last 20 years it has been estimated has generated a €1 billion impact on Waterford and the South East. Creating a Technological University will have impacts that are multiples of this.

CITY AMBITION

“The cities rightly are at the core of the national development plan and particularly the regional cities as counter-forces to the unsustainable growth of Dublin. At the moment, Waterford is the only city without a university. The city’s ambition, articulated in the MASP, reflects national ambition as set out in Project Ireland 2040. The lack of a university will continue to frustrate not just Waterford’s business community but will seriously compromise the ability of the city to reach the growth targets established by the national plan.

“Waterford stakeholders welcomed the pathway towards the creation of a university in the city that was outlined in the national strategy for higher education published in 2011 and the Technological Universities legislation that followed. The partnership between WIT and IT Carlow was recognised as presenting challenges but, with the combination of the obvious strengths of both organisations, stakeholders determined that the partnership would lend considerable weight to the future organisation and give it a very strong regional reach.

LACK OF PROGRESS

“It is incredibly disappointing therefore and most frustrating for Waterford stakeholders to observe the lack of substantive progress towards the creation of a new university for the city and region. We are aware of the need for academic staff in the partner institutions to be fully involved in the process and note that almost twelve months ago WIT academic staff voted overwhelmingly in favour of an MOU that gave comfort to staff on their future within the new organization. However, IT Carlow staff did not support this MOU and since then as far as we are concerned there has been no progress. This is extremely alarming.

“In the meantime, Munster Technological University has been formed, a university proposed, we note, for the province and for the Southern Region. We contend that a second university in Cork, however useful to that city, is not going to be in a position to support adequately the needs of stakeholders in the South East. However, in the vacuum created by the lack of progress in the South East, the positioning of a university in Cork as answering those needs gains momentum, however lacking in credibility such a proposition has.

IMMEDIATE ACTION

“In the summer of 2019, the government made a firm commitment to Waterford stakeholders to support the South East university project and if necessary to intervene to ensure the rapid resolution of any difficulties that might hold back this most critical development. There has been no such intervention to date, regrettably. A year has now passed.

“We are asking for immediate action by government in support of the creation of a Technological University in the city and region, recognising the imperative to create such an entity in order to realise national and regional development plans. We suggest the need for the government to take the initiative and create a structure independent of the existing organisations that will form the focal point for the project. We suggest the appointment without delay of an independent, senior educational leader to assist the current Presidents and their Executives in advancing the creation of the university with a firm focus on delivering what the region needs which is a university of quality, scale and impact. We emphasise: interventions of this kind were promised to stakeholders in the city a year ago and it is imperative that government makes good on these promises.”

Ahead of today’s (29th May 2020) Cabinet meeting, Chambers Ireland calls for Government to reform and extend the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) beyond its initial June deadline and ensure the right supports are in place to support business liquidity and jobs.

Speaking this morning, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “There have been indications that the Wage Subsidy Scheme will be retained beyond the initial 12-week period. However, as we approach the end of May, and as more and more businesses start to reopen, we are calling on Government to clearly indicate that the Scheme will continue beyond the initial deadline. Without this certainty, businesses cannot plan for their reopening until they know what the government will do to support them.

“The Wage Subsidy Scheme not only needs to be maintained, but it must also be reopened for new applicants and reformed so that it serves the needs of employees and avoids any further distortion of the labour market. Immediate action to ensure those workers who are returning from maternity leave and other forms of caring leave can be included in the Scheme. It would be an unfortunate legacy if, during this crisis, we were to create new obstacles to returning to the workplace for those with caring responsibilities.

“Our members are also seeking clarity on the issue of redundancies, and whether the deferral put in place under the Emergency Measures legislation in March, will extend beyond the “the period of 3 months commencing on the enactment of this Act”. This is causing considerable confusion for our members. We urge Cabinet to provide an update on this matter immediately.

“Finally, we have consistently called for the waiver on commercial rates to be extended beyond the proposed three month period, where Local Authorities receive central funding to replace the shortfall, so that it reflects the real impact of COVID-19 on business, their position on the roadmap and their ability to return to normal capacity.

“This relief must also be offered to all businesses who have been negatively impacted by the pandemic, as opposed to just those who have closed completely. Government could use the criteria of 25% decline in revenue, as set out in the TWSS, to determine eligibility for support.  The last thing we need to do is introduce a waiver that is too narrow, and results in businesses opting to stay closed so they can receive support on commercial rates owed.”

  • Click here for the submission from Chambers Ireland to Minister Eoghan Murphy on the expansion of Rates Waiver
  • Click here for the submission from Chambers Ireland to Minister Paschal Donohoe on the reform of TWSS
  • Click here for the submission from Chambers Ireland to Minister Regina Doherty on Redundancy criteria 

Chambers Ireland is today (27th May) launching our latest Covid-19 business impact survey.

The target of this survey are the business owners and operators around the country, both those whose businesses have been affected by the Covid-19 crisis, and those whose businesses have not.

With Phase 1 of the reopening of our economy underway, we are seeking to understand the struggles that businesses are experiencing, including those that are reopening, those that have remained closed, and those that have managed to continue through the restrictions.

The survey will close at noon on Monday, 1 June and seeks feedback on revenue, employment issues, and the Government’s policy agenda.

Speaking earlier today Chambers Ireland’s Chief Executive, Ian Talbot, said, “This series of surveys have been incredibly useful in shaping our engagement with government on a variety of policy issues.

“Hard data significantly strengthens our hand when we are advocating on behalf of the business community; we have been able to highlight the divergences between different sectors of the economy and also different regions of the country.

“We are hugely grateful to the member companies of the Chamber network for the time that they have spent participating in these surveys, and hope that our successes in obtaining and advocating for supports such as the business restart grants, the commercial rates holiday, and the Wage Subsidy Scheme, go some way towards assisting business continuity in these difficult economic times.

“These schemes are not perfect, and we are continuing to work with members of all political parties to ensure that there is a clear understanding of the circumstances that businesses face throughout the cities and regions of Ireland.

“While hopefully the worst parts of this pandemic are behind us, the most challenging time for the business community lies ahead of us, as we try to navigate the challenges of the low-touch economy.

“We urge every business owner or operator to engage with our survey, it will be the best ten-minute investment of your day.”

Chambers Ireland Governance Webinar

Date: Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Time: 3 – 4PM

Registration essential – register here: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZMoce-urD8qGNX-Lx1PqDO5DncL5VFb6Whf

ABOUT THE WEBINAR

If you are a director of a company then it is in these uncertain times that you must ensure that your governance is stronger than ever.

This seminar will focus on:

 

  • Board leadership in supporting the CEO and staff
  • Financial management and what to focus on
  • How to prepare for and run successful virtual board meetings.  We will draw on the findings from our global survey on Virtual Board Meetings we have just finished.  
  • 5 issues Directors need to focus on for the next 12 months

 

This one hour seminar will be led by David W Duffy, Founder & CEO of The Governance Company.

 

David W. Duffy is the founder of The Governance Company, (www.governance-company.com) a global provider of corporate governance programme using the blended learning model. It also provides governance advisory services and governance related research.

He graduated from Trinity College Dublin with a Bachelor of Business Studies Degree, is a Chartered Accountant and qualified with PWC in London. He holds an MBA from IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland.

He has extensive experience in advising on corporate governance, both in the public, private and not for profit sectors.  He has conducted over 150 governance assignments.

Publications: He is the author of the following publications:

  • “A Practical Guide to Corporate Governance” published by Chartered Accountants Ireland (2014)
  • “A Practical Guide for Company Directors” published by Chartered Accountants Ireland (2017)

He is a frequent speaker on governance at conferences and media contributor.

 

 

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