Long presses Chancellor on infrastructure investment for Northern Ireland

Following Chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn Statement at Westminster today, East Belfast Alliance MP Naomi Long has expressed disappointment that issues affecting NI were low on the Chancellor’s list of priorities. She also asked the Chancellor whether the Northern Ireland Barnett consequential of the infrastructure investment he announced will be ring-fenced for investment in local infrastructure and whether more could be done regarding air passenger duty on regional flights, given the emphasis he had placed on infrastructure and regional connectivity in his statement.

Naomi Long MP said: “Whilst the statement contained only a single reference to Northern Ireland, there will of course be local consequences as a result of the announcements in the statement today.

“Due to the degree to which the Northern Ireland economy is reliant on the public sector, the additional cuts announced within the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement will impact negatively on our economy, with some estimates suggesting that it could amount to £150m reduction in the recurrent budget.

“As the Chancellor is using some of that money in the first year to invest in infrastructure, recognising that such investment can help promote economic growth, I asked the Chancellor whether he intended to ring-fence the NI Barnett consequential of this infrastructure investment for local infrastructure. Whilst it is a one-off capital scheme, it will be up to the Executive how they spend it. It also appears that Northern Ireland is unlikely to benefit from the Chancellor’s negotiations to leverage additional private investment in infrastructure

“Such investment is particularly important because it offers the potential to create opportunities in our construction sector which is critical to growing our economy and creating employment. I am, therefore, particularly disappointed that the Chancellor did not address VAT on renovations as such a move could benefit the construction sector, increase home energy efficiency, thus lowering home heating costs and benefit the environment.

“On the more positive side, credit easing for small businesses, through the National Loan Guarantee Scheme and the Business Finance Partnership, which will apply in Northern Ireland, could help reduce borrowing costs and increase access to lending which could help these businesses to expand. Given the importance of SMEs in rebalancing the Northern Ireland economy, this could be very important. I sincerely hope that this initiative delivers real benefits for small-to-medium sized enterprises which are facing very difficult times at present.

“Alliance has long recognised the need to redress the balance between public sector and private sector pay and pensions and to do so sensitively and fairly; however, the Chancellor’s statement could leave ordinary working people in both sectors very frustrated that there has been no serious effort to encourage pay restraint for some of the highest paid individuals in company and bank board rooms.

“We will be looking closely at these figures over the coming days, as the effect in Northern Ireland will be largely buried in the details of both Barnett consequentials of today’s statement and the implementation locally of a number of the national schemes.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *