Putting Place First – Government Budget 2021 stimulus must restore the health of our towns and cities

Chambers Ireland, supported by County Wexford Chamber today (10 September 2020), launches its submission to Government detailing recommendations to be included in Budget 2021 and the longer term National Economic Plan.

Aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, the Chambers Ireland Budget 2021 Submission makes a series of recommendations that will support businesses to trade through the Pandemic through enabling our town centres and local economies to recover. It also emphasises the importance of investment in infrastructure, the low carbon transition, and the delivery of affordable homes.

Speaking today, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said,

“Budget 2021 will be published in circumstances that would have been unimaginable at the outset of this year. The Irish economy faces tremendous challenges as it continues to suffer the impact of a global health pandemic. Unfortunately, that is not the only threat on the horizon. We could very well be facing a no-deal trading relationship with the UK from January.

This Budget must address the underlying challenges to the economy. Even in February, when job creation was at an all-time high, this prosperity was not being felt in all parts of the country. Under-investment in infrastructure, particularly housing, was felt keenly across society, to the detriment of our quality of life. This is becoming a significant threat to our competitiveness and the sustainability of our economic recovery.

The only way we can collectively face down these challenges is to ensure that we invest. This means investing in climate resilient infrastructure and new technologies that will ensure we can decarbonise. It means we must enable and empower our SMEs – the drivers of economic growth in communities across the country – to continue to compete and remain productive throughout the crisis. Most importantly, it means investing in the places where we live and work, so that town and city centres can thrive.

Our submission calls on Government to put “Place” at the heart of its vision for Ireland. Budget 2021, and the new Legislative Programme, must be ambitious for the regions and the millions of people who live in the hinterlands of our cities and beyond. The need for balanced regional development and investment cannot be understated. As a first step, we call for the establishment of an inter-departmental Taskforce on Town Centres to address vacancies, build active transport infrastructure, and support urban living.

If our town and urban centres are to have any chance of recovering from the impacts of the pandemic, we need to see better joined up thinking, linking in planning, local government, transport and housing policy. Urban centres must be good places to live, if they are going to be decent places to do business.

Brexit, combined with the continued economic fallout from the pandemic, will make the work of the 33rd Dáil and the new Government even more challenging. As the consequences of these challenges unfold, we will be working closely with our members to ensure that their voices are heard.”