The Finance Minister Simon Hamilton today (20 March) welcomed the UK Budget allocation of £21.2 million to the Northern Ireland public expenditure Budget over the next two years. This included an additional £10.2 million to be used for capital investment.
Minister Hamilton said: “I have been, for some time now, stressing the importance of investing in our physical infrastructure to secure long term economic growth. I welcome the additional capital allocations for Northern Ireland in today’s Budget and look forward to the improvements to our infrastructure and boost to our economy they will bring.”
The Minister however re-iterated his stance that wider economic growth would not translate into increased budgets for the public sector. Commenting the Minister stated: “The Chancellor’s Budget continues to reflect increasing UK economic growth and that is to be welcomed, with Northern Ireland companies contributing to that growth. However the Chancellor has made it clear that the UK Government must continue to curb its debt and that any fiscal gains from higher economic growth will be used to reduce our national deficit.
“Unfortunately that means that the public sector is facing a sustained period of budget constraint. My view is that this also provides an opportunity to begin a process of reform so that we actually improve services despite reducing budgets. The task will not be easy but it is one we must face up to and provide solutions for.”
There were a number of specific decisions taken by the Chancellor which will have a positive impact for many people in Northern Ireland.
* Personal Allowance – The Personal Allowance increase in 2015-16 will lift 9,000 people in Northern Ireland out of income tax altogether with 641,000 people seeing an average real terms gain of £61.
* Starting Rate of Savings Income Tax – The changes to the starting rate of savings income tax could benefit up to 31,000 savers in N Ireland.
* Tax-Free Childcare – This could benefit 170,000 children in working families in Northern Ireland
* Enterprise Zones – This will help support growth and investment in Northern Ireland, as well as meeting one of the commitments in the NI Economic Pact
* SME Package – Has the potential to benefit 98% of businesses in Northern Ireland
* Increase in ISA limit – Has the possibility of benefitting the 106,000 ISA holders in Northern Ireland.