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Budget 2015: It's not just the low-income families who feel the pain

By John Simpson

Published 09/07/2015

For households living in Northern Ireland the outworking of the Budget is inevitably, but more slowly than expected, to take something away from living standards
For households living in Northern Ireland the outworking of the Budget is inevitably, but more slowly than expected, to take something away from living standards

The Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has put together a comprehensive and complex budget. There are serious implications for the Northern Ireland Executive in deciding whether and when to copy Great Britain, or introduce discretion where allowed by devolution.

The Chancellor has delivered decisions to fulfil the commitments made in the Government's election manifesto. Cutting the Government deficit was a central theme and that objective probably gets widespread support. However, in its delivery, the paying down of the budget deficit has to come from either tax increases, or spending decreases, or reduced welfare benefits.

Changes in welfare-type benefits can be examined in two groups. Some decisions apply automatically across the UK as part of the overall tax system. Changes in child tax credits, a major issue, will only become effective in April 2017, and then will mainly affect families with three or more children. The freeze on a range of working age benefits for the next four years may be applied in Northern Ireland.

Other welfare decisions will fall to the Northern Ireland Executive. The decision to require 18 to 21-year-old young people to either earn or learn, with the restriction on their ability to claim benefits, may affect local families, as will the withdrawal of entitlement to housing benefit from this age group.

For households living in Northern Ireland the outworking of the Budget is inevitably, but more slowly than expected, to take something away from living standards.

This has been a budget with pain for some low-income families and wide-ranging ramifications across the community.

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