Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Industry leaders in pre-budget appeal

The two sides of industry made last-ditch appeals to the Chancellor to help business and boost job creation ahead of today’s pre-budget report.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and the TUC had different ideas on how to aid the recovery from recession, but both groups agreed that measures were urgently needed to stimulate economic growth.

The BCC called for a freeze in the public sector pay bill and said pensions should be reformed to be brought in to line with private firms.

Whitehall budgets should be scrutinised to pave the way for spending cuts which should go further than efficiency savings, the group argued.

Director general David Frost said: “These sensible and realistic proposals are the views of thousands of companies from across the country — they must not be ignored when the Chancellor rises to present his pre-budget report.”

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said the Chancellor should do nothing to endanger economic recovery, adding: “Unemployment is still rising and the economy remains fragile. He must do more to help the jobless, particularly action to prevent this generation of school and college leavers being scarred for life.”

Meanwhile, the Republic is bracing itself for what is expected to be its toughest budget in years. Provisions to be announced by Finance Minister Brian Lenihan are also forecast to have a knock-on effect on Northern Ireland’s economy, with all eyes on any decisions on VAT which could end the cross-border shopping bonanza in the province’s border towns.

Embattled premier Brian Cowen — who faces an unprecedented €4bn cost-cutting plan — was also bruised by claims last night that Minister Lenihan was hatching a planned coup.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said a near deal with public sector unions on €1.3bn (£1.2bn) of the cutbacks was purposely scuppered last week as part of a behind-the-scenes plot against Mr Cowen, though the Taoiseach denied the accusation.