Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 April 2014

£200m package to boost Northern Ireland economy announced

The Northern Ireland Executive has announced a £200 million economy and jobs initiative.

The new measures include support for more than 4,600 people through skills training and employability.

First Minister Peter Robinson said: "I am pleased that we are able to announce this package which will provide a significant boost to the economy in Northern Ireland and provide employment, particularly for our young people and those who have been out of work for long periods."

This initiative comes on top of the £26 million in additional funding recently announced as part of the Executive's Delivering Social Change Signature Projects.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: "The Executive is responding flexibly to the needs of those hit hardest by the recession and taking action to ensure those out of work have access to the right training, skills and education opportunities.

"These employment measures are particularly focused on the needs of young people to help them get into work."

This package will deliver a range of new measures to improve schools, roads and accelerate nearly £60 million of capital projects, the ministers said.

It will produce waged employment opportunities for 1,700 young people of a minimum of six months duration within either the private, public or voluntary and community sectors.

Around 1,100 over-50s, who have been out of work for more than 12 months, will take up temporary paid employment of up to 26 weeks in the community and voluntary sector.

Further employer engagement with ApprenticeshipsNI will mean up to 900 additional young people will participate in the Youth Employment Scheme.

An additional 500 undergraduate science, technology, engineering and maths places will be funded each year, bringing the total increase in STEM places to 1,200 by 2015. This will enhance the skills base in priority areas for the economy.

There will also be 150 fully funded PhD places and 20 bursaries for aerospace MSc students.

A further 500 work experience placements/training opportunities for young people will be provided across the public sector as part of the Department for Employment and Learning's Steps to Work Programme.

The small business rate relief scheme will be extended to provide around 3,500 business ratepayers with a 20% discount.

A new Invest Northern Ireland Skills Growth scheme will be introduced for small businesses (up to 50 employees) which would provide a 50% grant towards training costs. Car parking charges in towns and city centres will be frozen until at least 2015.

An additional £15 million will be available to ensure that farmers receive more money in their Single Farm payment in 2013.

This will generate additional spending power for farm business from the end of 2013 and into 2014.

There will be a new finance voucher scheme to help small businesses access the specialist support they need to grow their businesses.

Streamlined and fast-track application and approval processes will be brought in for many Invest NI business support schemes.

More than £40 million will be available to deliver a range of projects in the current financial year to support the construction sector. This will improve the schools estate (including repairing fire damage to Arvalee Special School); undertake further roads structural maintenance; street lighting maintenance; emerging works along the Antrim Coast Road; £8 million additional funding for the housing co-ownership scheme and the maintenance budget for the schools estate will be increased by £10 million in 2013/14.

Nearly £60 million of capital spending will be accelerated to allow projects to commence in 2013/14 rather than 2014/15.

A further £10 million will be available in both 2013/14 and 2014/15 through the housing co-ownership scheme.

An extra £5.7 million of funding will go to the Tourism Development Scheme which could deliver total investment of over £27.5 million, supporting over 450 jobs in the construction phase and creating or sustaining approximately a further 50 tourism jobs once complete.

There will be further reforms to planning, including changes to the permitted development rights regime which enables developers to undertake works without the need to apply for planning permission and revisions to the structure of planning fees to alleviate the financial burden on developers.

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