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Mike Nesbitt highlights equality issues over holiday voucher scheme

Mike Nesbitt has requested an urgent briefing on the GBP2m Holiday at Home voucher scheme as concerns mount about its viability. conomy Minister Gordon Lyons has said it is now a matter of "if" the scheme proceeds, rather than when. His department said it was looking at the scheme afresh in the context of tourism's performance over the summer months, as well as any impact from the Spend Local retail voucher programme.

It would entail households obtaining a voucher giving GBP100 off an accommodation stay or a voucher giving GBP20 off a tourist attraction visit, after the visit or stay has taken place. A household would be able to claim just one voucher of each kind on a "first come, first served" basis. Strangford UUP MLA Mr Nesbitt, a member of the department's scrutiny committee, said: "At the committee I suggested we seek an urgent briefing on the Holiday at Home scheme.

"The biggest issue, I think, is how do they square the concept that it's 'first come, first served' with an equality agenda? "Could you have a very well-off couple going to a five-star hotel and people living in an area of deprivation -- who could really use a weekend break in Portrush -- losing out? "The equality impact assessment is going to be very interesting."

He added: "You have to spend the money and then claim back; so, if it's a finite scheme on a first come, first served basis, how can you as a consumer be confident that if you spend the money there will still be government money in the pot to pay you?" Mr Nesbitt said a situation could arise where a member of the public could pay in advance for a weekend break in the expectation that a voucher would cover part of the cost, only to discover afterwards that the scheme had run out. He added it could be more appropriate to reallocate the money to help households that cannot cope with rising energy bills over the winter.

Colum McLornan, co-owner of The Marine Hotel in Ballycastle, said he had hoped the Holiday at Home voucher scheme would have brought custom mid-week when rooms were otherwise under-occupied.

He added that customers were using their Spend Local vouchers at the hotel for meals, snacks and coffees, rather than for accommodation.

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Jon Tonge: Voucher scheme is a boost to retail, but can NI ever truly pay its own way?

Spent your GBP100 voucher yet? I hesitate to spoil the fun, as the high street really needs a break, but the last time I got a three-figure sum for nothing was for passing Go on the Monopoly board. Stormont's GBP166m giveaway is set against a long-standing, unresolved question: can Northern Ireland ever pay its way? t has been the most heavily subsidised part of the UK since the 1960s.

Geography and conflict provide two core explanations. But only one has been a constant. Amid relative peace, why does the region, in the words of its Secretary of State, "punch well below its weight economically?"

The UK Government spends 21% more on each Northern Ireland citizen than on those in south-east England. It's not that I'm against subsidies. I inhabit the region with the second-highest level of subsidy in England.

But the deficit per head here -- that is the amount spent per citizen minus the amount contributed -- is a mere GBP3,000 for every individual. The figure for Northern Ireland is not far shy of GBP5,500. Stormont controls 90% of what is spent locally.

But the overwhelming bulk of Executive finance comes from the UK Treasury. A big chunk of Executive spending is devoured by inescapable items, such as social security payments, with levels determined elsewhere. Options for Executive action are limited.

Unlike in Scotland and Wales, powers over income tax are not devolved. Even if eventually transferred, they would be no panacea. Income levels are only three-quarters of the level found elsewhere in the UK.

Taxes paid by Northern Ireland's citizens are, on average, nearly 20% lower than those contributed by those elsewhere in the UK, at GBP10,500 per year compared to GBP12,500. The only area where taxpaying in Northern Ireland per head reaches levels comparable to elsewhere is on "sin" items: alcohol and tobacco duties. There lies the dilemma.

The unhealthier your average local citizen's habits, the healthier the revenues. The Executive parties may sometimes be daft, but they are not stupid. It would be political suicide for any to advocate tax-raising powers for Stormont, which could hit the lowest earners in the UK.

Related to Northern Ireland's dismal financial position are its other big problems: low productivity, 10% below the UK median, and an overreliance upon public sector jobs, at 28% some 10% above the UK-wide figure. When the Troubles raged, the dearth of private sector jobs was understandable. Possible kidnapping -- or even execution -- did not make the greatest inward investment prospectus for would-be investors.

But those days have long passed and irritation at Westminster has mounted over perennial subsidies. Remember David Cameron -- who subsequently proved an expert on raising personal finance at least -- and his comment prior to the 2010 General Election that Northern Ireland was "ripe for public expenditure cuts?" The poor old UUP had formed an alliance with the Tories and was left high-and-dry by such fiscal rectitude.

Gleefully, the DUP warned against supporting Tory austerity, using language of which Sinn Fein would have been proud. If one thing unites Northern Ireland's parties it is that the region has "special circumstances", which mean, bluntly, that the place cannot possibly pay its way. We have moved seamlessly from massive Troubles subventions to non-local taxpayers underwriting the eternal cost of peace.

Is there any scope to raise local finance? Water charges, anyone? More chance of pushing water uphill, given the strength of the campaign against the idea a decade-and-a-half ago.

We pay an average of GBP400 per year in England by the way. Just saying. Prescription charges?

No chance, even though expenditure on drugs in Northern Ireland is way more per head than in England or Scotland. Free prescriptions cost more than GBP1m per day. I think of you all every time I hand over GBP9.35 for pills to keep my heart stable at the high rates of tax I pay.

What about raising rates bills? The obvious difficulty is the relatively low property prices in Northern Ireland. The average house price is GBP150,000, compared to GBP268,000 in England.

Given the amount spent on hotels over the years, the biggest career mistake I ever made was not buying a property in Northern Ireland. But the immense value available for house-purchasers makes Northern Ireland a great place for everyone to live -- except for its Finance Minister. That minister sees average rating revenue on a property in Northern Ireland raise only 55% of the amount yielded by a house in England.

And the comparative dearth of commercial properties compared to residential ones (nine out of 10 buildings are in the latter category) exacerbates the financial shortfall. How about raising university tuition fees, so that Executive subsidies could be cut? This is a probable "file with water charges".

Students from Northern Ireland (and the south) embarking on their courses at Queen's or Ulster University this autumn will be paying a mere GBP4,350 per annum. UK students enrolling at the University of Liverpool will be coughing up GBP9,250 for the privilege of hearing my gripping exposition of Northern Ireland's fiscal problems. Now, with all due respect to my own distinguished institution, I am not quite sure it is worth paying an extra GBP5,000 per year to attend than one of Northern Ireland's own reputable seats of learning.

But can Executive subsidies continue? So, you see the financial dilemmas for Northern Ireland. As someone once didn't quite say, it isn't going to pay its way you know.

I'll vouch(er) for that.

Jon Tonge is Professor of Politics at the University of Liverpool

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These are some of the best Google Pixel 6 deals and they come with a £20 voucher

Google's latest pair of flagship phones are now available to pre-order, and if you've got your eyes on them, we've got a promotion to help you get a little bit more out of your tariff.

(C) Provided by TechRadar Google Pixel 6

Across all Google Pixel 6 deals and 6 Pro deals on Mobiles.co.uk, you can currently get a GBP20 Currys voucher. This is exclusively available for TechRadar readers and gives a nice boost to the already market-leading offers Mobiles.co.uk has. The best offers available with this promotion are on the Vodafone and iD Mobile networks.

It is worth noting that there are some stock issues already with these devices, so you may find certain storage sizes and colours are unavailable.  To get the added voucher, you will first have to go to this link. Once you've filled in your details, you will get an email, and you can go check out the Mobiles.co.uk website.

If you order the device before, you won't get the voucher.

  • Black Friday: find out everything you need to know about the event

Pre-order the Google Pixel 6 and get a GBP20 voucher:

What are the Google Pixel 6 devices like?

Google Pixel 6:

Loading...

Load Error The more affordable of the two devices, the Google Pixel 6, will stand out to those that want a powerful smartphone at a more affordable price point. While it won't compete with the flagships of the world, there is a lot of promising specs on board.

The 6.4-inch FHD+ display, while not as impressive as some other more expensive devices, will look bright and clear. That paired with the 90Hz refresh rate will provide a fluid move as you swipe around the phone's interface. Google promises a 24-hour battery life from the 4524mAh battery and up to 30% charge in 30 minutes.

That paired with the 8GB RAM 'Google Tensor' processor means this device will be capable of operating most apps without lag or any major trouble. Google has fully committed to the security of this device, using end-to-end security along with anti-phishing and malware protection, multi-layer hardware security, and plenty more. The dual-camera setup provides an impressive camera performance.

While not as powerful as what Samsung and Apple can offer, it is still likely to be one of the best around. Google Pixel 6 Pro: Step up to the more powerful Google Pixel 6 Pro, and you'll get a very similar package to the regular 6, just with some critical upgrades in the more important categories.

The most obvious upgrade is in the size and display. The Google Pixel 6 Pro comes in at an impressive 6.7-inches with a QHD display. It also upgrades to a 120Hz refresh rate for the display for even faster and cleaner movement around your phone's apps and operating system.

There are also improvements in both the battery life and charging rates. You'll be getting a 4905mAh battery and the ability to charge 50% in 30 minutes. As for the camera, like the Google Pixel 6, the Pro model includes a 50MP wide camera and a 12MP ultrawide camera.

However, the Pro model also includes a 48MP telephoto lens with a zoom of up to 20x.

Continue Reading Show full articles without "Continue Reading" button for {0} hours.

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These are some of the best Google Pixel 6 deals and they come with a £20 voucher

Google's latest pair of flagship phones are now available to pre-order, and if you've got your eyes on them, we've got a promotion to help you get a little bit more out of your tariff.

(C) Provided by TechRadar Google Pixel 6

Across all Google Pixel 6 deals and 6 Pro deals on Mobiles.co.uk, you can currently get a GBP20 Currys voucher. This is exclusively available for TechRadar readers and gives a nice boost to the already market-leading offers Mobiles.co.uk has. The best offers available with this promotion are on the Vodafone and iD Mobile networks.

It is worth noting that there are some stock issues already with these devices, so you may find certain storage sizes and colours are unavailable.  To get the added voucher, you will first have to go to this link. Once you've filled in your details, you will get an email, and you can go check out the Mobiles.co.uk website.

If you order the device before, you won't get the voucher.

  • Black Friday: find out everything you need to know about the event

Pre-order the Google Pixel 6 and get a GBP20 voucher:

What are the Google Pixel 6 devices like?

Google Pixel 6:

Loading...

Load Error The more affordable of the two devices, the Google Pixel 6, will stand out to those that want a powerful smartphone at a more affordable price point. While it won't compete with the flagships of the world, there is a lot of promising specs on board.

The 6.4-inch FHD+ display, while not as impressive as some other more expensive devices, will look bright and clear. That paired with the 90Hz refresh rate will provide a fluid move as you swipe around the phone's interface. Google promises a 24-hour battery life from the 4524mAh battery and up to 30% charge in 30 minutes.

That paired with the 8GB RAM 'Google Tensor' processor means this device will be capable of operating most apps without lag or any major trouble. Google has fully committed to the security of this device, using end-to-end security along with anti-phishing and malware protection, multi-layer hardware security, and plenty more. The dual-camera setup provides an impressive camera performance.

While not as powerful as what Samsung and Apple can offer, it is still likely to be one of the best around. Google Pixel 6 Pro: Step up to the more powerful Google Pixel 6 Pro, and you'll get a very similar package to the regular 6, just with some critical upgrades in the more important categories.

The most obvious upgrade is in the size and display. The Google Pixel 6 Pro comes in at an impressive 6.7-inches with a QHD display. It also upgrades to a 120Hz refresh rate for the display for even faster and cleaner movement around your phone's apps and operating system.

There are also improvements in both the battery life and charging rates. You'll be getting a 4905mAh battery and the ability to charge 50% in 30 minutes. As for the camera, like the Google Pixel 6, the Pro model includes a 50MP wide camera and a 12MP ultrawide camera.

However, the Pro model also includes a 48MP telephoto lens with a zoom of up to 20x.

Continue Reading Show full articles without "Continue Reading" button for {0} hours.

Categories
Coupons & Offers

These are some of the best Google Pixel 6 deals and they come with a £20 voucher

Google's latest pair of flagship phones are now available to pre-order, and if you've got your eyes on them, we've got a promotion to help you get a little bit more out of your tariff.

(C) Provided by TechRadar Google Pixel 6

Across all Google Pixel 6 deals and 6 Pro deals on Mobiles.co.uk, you can currently get a GBP20 Currys voucher. This is exclusively available for TechRadar readers and gives a nice boost to the already market-leading offers Mobiles.co.uk has. The best offers available with this promotion are on the Vodafone and iD Mobile networks.

It is worth noting that there are some stock issues already with these devices, so you may find certain storage sizes and colours are unavailable.  To get the added voucher, you will first have to go to this link. Once you've filled in your details, you will get an email, and you can go check out the Mobiles.co.uk website.

If you order the device before, you won't get the voucher.

  • Black Friday: find out everything you need to know about the event

Pre-order the Google Pixel 6 and get a GBP20 voucher:

What are the Google Pixel 6 devices like?

Google Pixel 6:

Loading...

Load Error The more affordable of the two devices, the Google Pixel 6, will stand out to those that want a powerful smartphone at a more affordable price point. While it won't compete with the flagships of the world, there is a lot of promising specs on board.

The 6.4-inch FHD+ display, while not as impressive as some other more expensive devices, will look bright and clear. That paired with the 90Hz refresh rate will provide a fluid move as you swipe around the phone's interface. Google promises a 24-hour battery life from the 4524mAh battery and up to 30% charge in 30 minutes.

That paired with the 8GB RAM 'Google Tensor' processor means this device will be capable of operating most apps without lag or any major trouble. Google has fully committed to the security of this device, using end-to-end security along with anti-phishing and malware protection, multi-layer hardware security, and plenty more. The dual-camera setup provides an impressive camera performance.

While not as powerful as what Samsung and Apple can offer, it is still likely to be one of the best around. Google Pixel 6 Pro: Step up to the more powerful Google Pixel 6 Pro, and you'll get a very similar package to the regular 6, just with some critical upgrades in the more important categories.

The most obvious upgrade is in the size and display. The Google Pixel 6 Pro comes in at an impressive 6.7-inches with a QHD display. It also upgrades to a 120Hz refresh rate for the display for even faster and cleaner movement around your phone's apps and operating system.

There are also improvements in both the battery life and charging rates. You'll be getting a 4905mAh battery and the ability to charge 50% in 30 minutes. As for the camera, like the Google Pixel 6, the Pro model includes a 50MP wide camera and a 12MP ultrawide camera.

However, the Pro model also includes a 48MP telephoto lens with a zoom of up to 20x.

Continue Reading Show full articles without "Continue Reading" button for {0} hours.

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NI high street voucher: 100,000 given seven days to confirm identity to receive Spend Local card

Applicants to Northern Ireland's Spend Local scheme have been reassured an email asking for further identity verification information is a legitimate request from the Department for the Economy. round 100,000 people whose details could not be verified automatically are to to be contacted in order to complete their application process and get the GBP100 card. The department said the email may be in junk folders and that the correspondence needed to be moved into the main inbox before clicking on links. There have been technical difficulties, which officials say have be resolved.

Those sent an email have seven days to complete the process. Some have already received the email which asks them to upload documentary evidence to support the application. The email states: "Thank you for applying to the High Street Scheme.

"However, it has not been possible to verify your identity (or the person that you have applied on behalf of) through automated checks of the data you provided against a range of Government databases. "This may be due to differences in how data was entered on the High Street Scheme application and how it is held on those databases." It continued: "In order for us to assess whether you (or the person that you have applied on behalf of) are eligible for the Spend Local pre-paid card, you will need to provide documentary evidence to support the application.

"You will need to upload 1 piece of evidence to prove you are resident in Northern Ireland, and upload 1 piece of evidence to prove your date of birth." A number of people on social media have reported receiving the email, with some querying the authenticity of the request. Sinn Fein's East Londonderry MLA Caoimhe Archibald said she has been contacted by a number of people asking about the email.

The MLA said she had contacted the Economy Minister Gordon Lyons who confirmed to her the email was "not a scam". Both online and telephone applications to the Spend Local scheme close on Monday, October 25. After this date it will no longer be possible to apply for the GBP100 pre-paid Spend Local card.

The Spend Local cards can be used in all participating businesses in Northern Ireland up until the 30 of November. Earlier this week it was revealed more than 160,000 people have not yet applied for the card. The Department for the Economy confirmed the email was genuine and said people who applied but could not be automatically verified for the card will start to receive the emails.

They said people should note the email may go to their junk folder. A spokesperson said: "Emails to those applicants who could not be automatically verified for a Spend Local card have started to issue. "The email from [email protected] may be in your Junk Folder.

If this has happened, please move the email into your Inbox Folder before you access the link to upload your documents. "Some people may have had difficulties uploading their documents due to the file format. This issue has now been resolved.

If you are continuing to have issues uploading your documents please try a different file format. "There is no requirement to send the requested information to the Spend Local or @Economy_NI email mailboxes - any documents sent to these mailboxes will not be processed." A statement added: "You have seven days from receipt of the email to complete the verification required.

This applies only to those people who have received the email. "The existing deadline for new applications for a Spend Local card remains midnight on Monday 25 October for online applications and 6pm the same day for telephone applications. "If you have not yet made your application, please do so without delay.

Please also consider if you have friends or family members who may need help with applying." So far 1.3million applications have been made with 1.2m been verified. Officials said they were working to process applications as quickly as possible.

Cards will continue to be issued to successful applicants over the coming weeks.

More information about the scheme and details on how to apply are available at http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/spend-local

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NI high street voucher: 100,000 given seven days to confirm identity to receive Spend Local card

Applicants to Northern Ireland's Spend Local scheme have been reassured an email asking for further identity verification information is a legitimate request from the Department for the Economy. round 100,000 people whose details could not be verified automatically are to to be contacted in order to complete their application process and get the GBP100 card. The department said the email may be in junk folders and that the correspondence needed to be moved into the main inbox before clicking on links. There have been technical difficulties, which officials say have be resolved.

Those sent an email have seven days to complete the process. Some have already received the email which asks them to upload documentary evidence to support the application. The email states: "Thank you for applying to the High Street Scheme.

"However, it has not been possible to verify your identity (or the person that you have applied on behalf of) through automated checks of the data you provided against a range of Government databases. "This may be due to differences in how data was entered on the High Street Scheme application and how it is held on those databases." It continued: "In order for us to assess whether you (or the person that you have applied on behalf of) are eligible for the Spend Local pre-paid card, you will need to provide documentary evidence to support the application.

"You will need to upload 1 piece of evidence to prove you are resident in Northern Ireland, and upload 1 piece of evidence to prove your date of birth." A number of people on social media have reported receiving the email, with some querying the authenticity of the request. Sinn Fein's East Londonderry MLA Caoimhe Archibald said she has been contacted by a number of people asking about the email.

The MLA said she had contacted the Economy Minister Gordon Lyons who confirmed to her the email was "not a scam". Both online and telephone applications to the Spend Local scheme close on Monday, October 25. After this date it will no longer be possible to apply for the GBP100 pre-paid Spend Local card.

The Spend Local cards can be used in all participating businesses in Northern Ireland up until the 30 of November. Earlier this week it was revealed more than 160,000 people have not yet applied for the card. The Department for the Economy confirmed the email was genuine and said people who applied but could not be automatically verified for the card will start to receive the emails.

They said people should note the email may go to their junk folder. A spokesperson said: "Emails to those applicants who could not be automatically verified for a Spend Local card have started to issue. "The email from [email protected] may be in your Junk Folder.

If this has happened, please move the email into your Inbox Folder before you access the link to upload your documents. "Some people may have had difficulties uploading their documents due to the file format. This issue has now been resolved.

If you are continuing to have issues uploading your documents please try a different file format. "There is no requirement to send the requested information to the Spend Local or @Economy_NI email mailboxes - any documents sent to these mailboxes will not be processed." A statement added: "You have seven days from receipt of the email to complete the verification required.

This applies only to those people who have received the email. "The existing deadline for new applications for a Spend Local card remains midnight on Monday 25 October for online applications and 6pm the same day for telephone applications. "If you have not yet made your application, please do so without delay.

Please also consider if you have friends or family members who may need help with applying." So far 1.3million applications have been made with 1.2m been verified. Officials said they were working to process applications as quickly as possible.

Cards will continue to be issued to successful applicants over the coming weeks.

More information about the scheme and details on how to apply are available at http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/spend-local

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Tesco shoppers have until midnight to get free £12 bonus for Christmas shop

Tesco shoppers only have until midnight tonight to get a GBP12 bonus to put toward their Christmas shop. The free money is dished out through the Tesco Christmas Saver scheme. This is a type of savings club that allows shoppers to save up their Clubcard points throughout the year to use on their big festive shop.

But you can also "top up" your account and get a bonus of 6% from Tesco - worth up to GBP12 - giving you more cash to spend. The amount you pay in is returned to you as Tesco vouchers in your November Clubcard statement, along with a bonus voucher.

Tesco Clubcard being swiped in store.You have to be a Clubcard member to sign up for the Christmas scheme (Handout)

However, shoppers must add money into their account by a certain date to get the extra cash. This year, the deadline for "topping up" your Christmas Saver account is 11.59pm tonight (October 20).

You only get the extra cash on the money you physically add into your account. If you put extra money into the saver scheme beyond this date, it won't count towards your total for this Christmas. Jordon Cox, who runs the Britain's Coupon Kid blog said: "If you are 100% certain you are going to shop at Tesco this Christmas, then it might be worth snapping up that bonus while you can.

"It's around a 6% bonus when you top up, but as Tesco say 'every little helps'." Have you already done your Christmas shopping? Let us know: [email protected]

Bonus vouchers are valid for two months from the date of issue, while top up vouchers must be spent within two years. The maximum you can top up is GBP360 per year, although you only need to put in GBP200 to get the maximum bonus, with the breakdown as follows:

  • GBP1.50 bonus when you save between GBP25 and GBP49.50
  • GBP3 bonus when you save between GBP50 and GBP99.50
  • GBP6 bonus when you save between GBP100 and GBP199.50
  • GBP12 bonus when you save GBP200 to GBP360

But Tesco isn't the only supermarket to offer a Christmas Saver scheme. We've got a round up of all the grocers that run a similar initiative here including Asda.

The Asda Christmas Savings scheme comes in the form of a card that you need to top up throughout the year, and offers a bonus of up to GBP15. However, to get this amount, you need to save GBP280 - which is higher than the GBP200 threshold at Tesco. There are some drawbacks of supermarket saver schemes that you should be aware of.

For example, once you've started saving your cash, you're then locked into spending your money with that retailer - which means you can't shop around for the best price on food. You also don't get the same protection as you would with a regular bank account, in the unlikely event that a supermarket were to go bust. The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) protects up to GBP85,000 of your savings, but it doesn't cover Christmas saver clubs.

How do I sign up to the Tesco Christmas Saver scheme?

You first have to be a Clubcard member to sign up for the Tesco Christmas Saver scheme, as you'll need to sign up through your account.

Clubcard member can sign up via the "voucher schemes" page on their online through the Tesco website. It is free to sign up to both Tesco Clubcard and its Christmas Saver scheme. Through the Clubcard scheme, shoppers get one point for every GBP1 they spend in store and online, or one point for every GBP2 spent on fuel.

You can collect points through Tesco Bank and Tesco Mobile as well. You need a minimum of 150 points to get any sort of voucher, which will be worth GBP1.50 to spend in Tesco. Or if you save them up, and 500 points would be worth GBP5, for example.

But there are ways to make your Clubcard points worth three times what you can spend them for at Tesco. You can do this be redeeming your points with a Tesco Reward Partner, where every 50p worth of Clubcard vouchers you save is worth GBP1.50 to spend. This in effects mean that 500 points would be worth GBP15.

Sadly, you can't spend top-up and bonus vouchers with Tesco's Reward Partners, or on items like lottery tickets or tobacco.

Read MoreTesco opens first ever checkout-free store where shoppers walk out with goodsRead MoreTesco brings in security barriers for alcohol aisles to stop shoplifting

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NI high street voucher: Retail groups urge shoppers not to purchase online gift cards

Northern Ireland retail and hospitality bodies have urged shoppers here to spend their GBP100 high street voucher locally, after reports emerged of some people using it to buy Amazon vouchers from supermarkets. he GBP145 million Spend Local scheme allows the card to be spent in "bricks and mortar" businesses up until November 30, with the last day to apply being October 25. During Assembly questions to the Economy Minister Gordon Lyons last month, UUP MLA Mike Nesbitt pointed out that the cards could be used to buy Amazon vouchers from supermarket branches. At the time Mr Lyons acknowledged this point but said he believed the public would act in the intended spirit of the scheme and support smaller shops.

Other online retailers offering physical gift vouchers can also be bought in supermarkets using the card. Both Retail NI and Hospitality Ulster have urged the public here to use the scheme in order to support Northern Ireland's high street. Speaking to BBC NI's Nolan Show on Wednesday, Retail NI chief Glyn Roberts said the idea of purchasing gift vouchers for online retailers "completely goes against the ethos and intention" of the card.

"It is completely wrong and we would encourage consumers not to do that," he said. "We have been promoting the virtues of independent retailers, what they do and their role in the community. It is absolutely crucial people support those businesses as that is what the voucher is all about."

Colin Neill from Hospitality Ulster added: "Look, we all have to accept there are people maybe less fortunate than you and I, that this GBP100 puts food in their cupboard. "But I think there is a huge difference between someone going and buying groceries in one of our supermarkets to feed their kids and using it for an Amazon voucher. "I think at this point we should be appealing to them [the supermarkets] and they should come out and make a statement and say they should no longer accept [the card] for that type of purchase."

During the show a number of callers admitted they would be using the Spend Local card to purchase vouchers for the online retail giant. One man called Graham told the show: "When I get my money, I am going to nip down and buy a voucher and I am going to spend it on Amazon. "I am going to buy on Amazon something I can get for maybe half the price I can buy through my local retailer."

While the cards cannot be used online or for gambling or legal services like penalties, according to the Department for the Economy there is no technical way to prevent online gift vouchers being purchased in a store. They said the "limits of the technology" mean it is "not possible to distinguish between items within someone's shopping basket". In a statement from a department spokesperson, they instead encouraged the public to think of the local retailers who have been impacted by the pandemic and said an advertising campaign is designed to encourage this.

"The High Street Scheme is designed to stimulate demand in local businesses, including retail and hospitality sectors, following the pandemic," they said. "However, the scheme has also been designed to be as simple to use as possible in order to allow the public to spend their GBP100 pre-paid card in local businesses. "It was set up so that businesses in Northern Ireland that can accept a debit or credit card as payment for goods or services they sell, can also accept the Spend Local cards as payment.

"While it is possible to purchase some goods which will have less benefit to our local businesses, the Department would discourage this." They added: "Indeed, the Department has been clear in its messaging to all card holders - use your Spend Local card to help those retail, hospitality and other sectors in your local area that have been most impacted by the pandemic. "This message has been embraced by many of our local business owners who are encouraging card holders to spend a little to give a big effect.

We encourage Nolan Show listeners to do the same."

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NI high street voucher: Retail groups urge shoppers not to purchase online gift cards

Northern Ireland retail and hospitality bodies have urged shoppers here to spend their GBP100 high street voucher locally, after reports emerged of some people using it to buy Amazon vouchers from supermarkets. he GBP145 million Spend Local scheme allows the card to be spent in "bricks and mortar" businesses up until November 30, with the last day to apply being October 25. During Assembly questions to the Economy Minister Gordon Lyons last month, UUP MLA Mike Nesbitt pointed out that the cards could be used to buy Amazon vouchers from supermarket branches. At the time Mr Lyons acknowledged this point but said he believed the public would act in the intended spirit of the scheme and support smaller shops.

Other online retailers offering physical gift vouchers can also be bought in supermarkets using the card. Both Retail NI and Hospitality Ulster have urged the public here to use the scheme in order to support Northern Ireland's high street. Speaking to BBC NI's Nolan Show on Wednesday, Retail NI chief Glyn Roberts said the idea of purchasing gift vouchers for online retailers "completely goes against the ethos and intention" of the card.

"It is completely wrong and we would encourage consumers not to do that," he said. "We have been promoting the virtues of independent retailers, what they do and their role in the community. It is absolutely crucial people support those businesses as that is what the voucher is all about."

Colin Neill from Hospitality Ulster added: "Look, we all have to accept there are people maybe less fortunate than you and I, that this GBP100 puts food in their cupboard. "But I think there is a huge difference between someone going and buying groceries in one of our supermarkets to feed their kids and using it for an Amazon voucher. "I think at this point we should be appealing to them [the supermarkets] and they should come out and make a statement and say they should no longer accept [the card] for that type of purchase."

During the show a number of callers admitted they would be using the Spend Local card to purchase vouchers for the online retail giant. One man called Graham told the show: "When I get my money, I am going to nip down and buy a voucher and I am going to spend it on Amazon. "I am going to buy on Amazon something I can get for maybe half the price I can buy through my local retailer."

While the cards cannot be used online or for gambling or legal services like penalties, according to the Department for the Economy there is no technical way to prevent online gift vouchers being purchased in a store. They said the "limits of the technology" mean it is "not possible to distinguish between items within someone's shopping basket". In a statement from a department spokesperson, they instead encouraged the public to think of the local retailers who have been impacted by the pandemic and said an advertising campaign is designed to encourage this.

"The High Street Scheme is designed to stimulate demand in local businesses, including retail and hospitality sectors, following the pandemic," they said. "However, the scheme has also been designed to be as simple to use as possible in order to allow the public to spend their GBP100 pre-paid card in local businesses. "It was set up so that businesses in Northern Ireland that can accept a debit or credit card as payment for goods or services they sell, can also accept the Spend Local cards as payment.

"While it is possible to purchase some goods which will have less benefit to our local businesses, the Department would discourage this." They added: "Indeed, the Department has been clear in its messaging to all card holders - use your Spend Local card to help those retail, hospitality and other sectors in your local area that have been most impacted by the pandemic. "This message has been embraced by many of our local business owners who are encouraging card holders to spend a little to give a big effect.

We encourage Nolan Show listeners to do the same."