High street voucher scheme: £100 cards 'to be available in September'

By Richard Morgan
BBC News NI Business Reporter

Media caption, The pre-paid card cannot be used for online shopping, says the economy minister

Northern Ireland's high street voucher scheme will open in September and applications will be checked against the latest electoral register, Economy Minister Gordon Lyons has said.

Every adult in Northern Ireland is eligible for a £100 pre-paid card.

The intention is to encourage spending at retailers that have been badly affected by the Covid-19 lockdowns.

The electoral register is being updated through a canvass, which takes place every 10 years.

Even if you have previously been registered to vote you must do so again as part of the process.

'Boost for high streets'

Speaking on Thursday, Mr Lyons said he wanted to make sure everyone could receive their voucher card as soon as possible after the scheme opened.

"As a first step in that process I would urge members of the public to sign up to the electoral register if they have not already done so," he said.

"We plan to use the register to check registrations for the high street scheme."

Image caption, Gordon Lyons (centre) met retail bodies in Carrickfergus as he gave more details about the voucher scheme

He said the scheme start date had been based on research that indicated the autumn was the best time to stimulate more spending in town and city centres.

Mr Lyons announced that the contract for the delivery of the high street vouchers had been awarded to Prepaid Financial Services (PFS) through a "robust" procurement process.

He said he believed the scheme would boost Northern Ireland's high streets.

"It will mean up to 1.4 million people will have an extra £100 each to spend on our high streets rather than online," said the minister.

"This will help bring many more customers back through the doors of local retail, hospitality and other sectors."

PFS is a payments technology company that assists governments worldwide to issue money to the public.

Mr Lyons did not confirm how much PFS would be paid to deliver of the scheme but said it was part of the overall £145m of funding that had been set aside for it.

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