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NI Government puts access to finance under spotlight

Northern Ireland's Finance Minister, Simon Hamilton, is beginning a series of talks with ministers and senior bank executives to address the economic challenges facing Northern Ireland.

Hamilton said he wanted to put a 'renewed focus on access to finance and banking issues' as small businesses continue to struggle accessing finance from banks and other high-street lenders.

"This is restricting their ability to access working capital or the finance needed to exploit new business opportunities and jeopardising economic recovery in Northern Ireland," he said.

It follows Northern Ireland's economic pact with the UK Government in June, which agreed on a tailored and regional response to the country's banking issues.

Northern Ireland's economy is recovering at a slower pace than the rest of the UK, with the country's highstreets experiencing the greatest number of shop vacancies in the UK, according to the British Retail Consortium.

Hamilton continued: "Looking forward, it is absolutely vital that we maintain the momentum on this important work."

The Finance Minister will meet with ministers in Whitehall next week to discuss these agreements. He will also meet with the British Banker's Association to discuss what more can be done to improve the local financial landscape for small businesses in Northern Ireland.