Belfast Telegraph

Taxpayers unconvinced over need for more spending cuts

BY CLARE WEIR

While it's not yet clear what impact today's Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) will have in Northern Ireland, UK-wide spending cuts totalling more than £11bn are being widely tipped as a key outcome, according to a business advisory firm.

The last CSR in 2010 saw real terms reductions in Northern Ireland spending of -8% and -40% in current and capital budgets, respectively for the period through to 2014-15. In hard cash, that amounted to a cumulative real terms reduction of £4bn over the four years, as compared to the 2010-11 baseline; with the 2014-15 total Departmental Expenditure Limit spending being £1.4bn less, in real terms, than the 2010-11 baseline.

Today's review covers spending for the year 2015/16, which includes the first year of the next Parliament after the next general election:

A UK-wide survey from PricewaterhouseCooper found that 37% of people across the country felt there was no need for additional spending cuts over and above those already announced.

In Northern Ireland, 30% of taxpayers say more cuts aren't needed.

However, when it comes to knowing where the money goes, only 17% of Northern Ireland taxpayers say they have an excellent or good understanding of how their tax money is currently spent and a mere 10% say they understand the level of spending cuts that may be necessary to address the current deficit.

Looking to the future, 40% of Northern Ireland taxpayers expect the local economy to deteriorate further in 2013-14.

Esmond Birnie, PwC's chief economist in Northern Ireland, said that despite the expected £11bn cuts, UK taxpayers are not convinced that more austerity is needed.

"Notwithstanding some recent indicators that are consistent with the beginnings of a gradual recovery in the Northern Ireland economy, taxpayers clearly remain to be convinced," he said.

"One element in economic recovery is consumer and investor confidence. This survey suggests that in that regard, we still have a way to go."

Belfast Telegraph

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