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Economy Minister has questions to answer over planned schemes, says Dickson

The Economy Minister must outline her plans for the high street and tourism voucher schemes, given the new COVID restrictions, Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson has said.

The party’s Economy spokesperson said the schemes, announced late last year, still had several questions outstanding. He has now written to Economy Minister Diane Dodds, seeking clarity.

“The Finance Minister announced in November he had allocated £95 million for the high street voucher scheme, with it being operated by the Department for the Economy. In addition, the Department announced consideration of a similar pre-paid voucher scheme for tourism.

“Unfortunately, given the continuation of the pandemic and threat to public health, non-essential retail has been closed, which is due to continue for a number of weeks at least, as has almost all businesses associated with tourism. Along with the Executive’s stay at home message, it has meant the roll-out of the scheme has been made virtually impossible for the foreseeable future.

“The Economy Minister must outline her specific plans for these schemes in the face of the public health message and current restrictions. A number of questions remain, including if the cards are procured within this current financial year but not spent, will the funds be returned? I have written to the Minister and hope she provides clarity immediately.”