Allocation of £132m for North welcomed
The UK chancellor’s decision to allocate an additional £132 million (€162 million) to Northern Ireland in his autumn statement could deliver a life-saving boost for the North’s struggling construction sector, local business leaders have said.
The capital spending windfall for the Northern Ireland Executive could give a green light to major new infrastructure projects and potentially support thousands of jobs across the North.
Overall, George Osborne’s mini-budget delivered no major austerity implications but cuts in working age benefits could leave thousands out of pocket in Northern Ireland.
His decision to introduce a one per cent cap on some welfare payments are designed to save the UK government money but could affect 250,000 people in the North.
However new reforms will, according to the UK treasury, give 8,000 people a tax break while 615,000 in Northern Ireland will pay less income tax.
The chancellor announced several measures specific to the North.
These included a £32 million research partnership for Queen’s University Belfast Institute of Health Science and the fact that Derry is to become one of the UK’s next super-connected cities.
Motorists in the North will also benefit from a postponement of the rise in fuel duty next January.
Moreover, up to 114,000 small and medium-sized businesses in the North may benefit from a raft of new business support measures that are to be introduced.
Ian Coulter, chairman of the Confederation of British Industry in Northern Ireland, said businesses would also welcome the announcement of a further reduction in the UK corporation tax rate to 21 per cent from April 2014.
Chairman of the Institute of Directors Mervyn McCall said many local companies could also benefit from an annual allowance of 100 per cent tax relief on investments in plant and machinery up to £250,000.
One of the most significant decisions taken by the chancellor is to introduce a carbon price floor exemption for the North, according to Minister for Finance Sammy Wilson.
He said this will ensure that “electricity bills remain at a fair and affordable rate”.