Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Spending cuts 'not catastrophic'

Northern Ireland will have enough money to run public services after the cuts, an economist said
Northern Ireland will have enough money to run public services after the cuts, an economist said

Northern Ireland will still have enough money to run world-class public services after the spending cuts are implemented, a top economist has told Assembly members.

Major public sector jobs losses are also not inevitable if more focus is placed on controlling costs, according to Neil Gibson from Oxford Economics.

With executive ministers still to agree a draft budget to absorb the £4 billion cut to the block grant, Mr Gibson claimed many other regions in the UK would be happy with the money they had been left to work with in the wake of the Spending Review.

"I want to be clear that what's in front of us is challenging," he told members of the Finance and Personnel Committee.

"I don't want to underplay how hard it's going to be to make savings, but it shouldn't be catastrophic.

"The amount of money we have in Northern Ireland coming in, even by the end of this four-year period, should still be more than enough to run world-class public services.

"Most other countries and certainly regions in the UK would be delighted to have that level of revenue."

He said ongoing speculation about up to 30,000 potential job losses was not helpful and had created deep uncertainty within the public sector.

The economist said widespread redundancies would not be needed if tough decisions to control costs - such as pay cuts - were taken.

He said: "If one of our jobs is to mitigate the jobs impact, it is do-able if we can control costs."

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