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George Osborne: 'Budget delivers on our plan for working people across Northern Ireland'

Exclusive: Chancellor George Osborne writes for the Belfast Telegraph

Published 17/03/2016

George Osborne outside No 11 Downing Street with the famous budget case
George Osborne outside No 11 Downing Street with the famous budget case

Yesterday I set out a budget to make the UK fit for the future. I set out how I will deliver economic security, national security and opportunity for families in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland is thriving as part of the UK. Since early 2010, employment has grown, with 51,000 more people in work and lower unemployment.

Earnings grew faster than in any other UK region over the past year.

The Budget confirms over £220m of additional funding through the Barnett formula for the Northern Ireland Executive, thanks to our prioritisation of frontline services and support for business through the rates system in England.

Part of our plan is about ensuring each nation and region achieves its true potential, which is why have set about delivering the most radical transfer of power in modern history.

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In Northern Ireland, this means that the excellent Secretary of State Theresa Villiers and I are working towards the devolution of corporation tax.

It's now vital the Executive continues to press on with the programme of reform needed to ensure the financial sustainability we require to confirm corporation tax devolution.

And I was able to confirm yesterday that legislation will be finalised soon which will ensure that investors in the Executive's pilot Enterprise Zone near Coleraine will be able to benefit from tax breaks.

Thanks to an increase in the income tax personal allowance and higher rate threshold, 800,000 people in Northern Ireland will get a tax cut by 2017-18.

I'm also delighted to have announced that we are providing £4.5m towards the launch of a Helicopter Emergency Medical Service for Northern Ireland.

Dr John Hinds, who tragically died last summer, was a brave and committed trauma doctor, as well as a dedicated campaigner. He saw an air ambulance as essential, not a luxury.

I am pleased that now we are playing our part in bringing his vision one step closer to being a reality.

Our investment will help to get an air ambulance service up and running, including the lease of a helicopter, as well as financial support for its first three years in operation.

It's been suggested that it could save up to 50 lives a year. It will unarguably enhance the excellent services that Northern Ireland's trauma clinicians, nurses, paramedics and support staff already provide.

Northern Ireland will no longer be the only region of the UK which does not have a helicopter emergency medical service.

It's part of a record £42m allocation of banking fines I've announced at this Budget.

We've already provided significant additional financial support and flexibility to the Executive as part of the Stormont House and Fresh Start agreements, and that support has played a big part in stabilising politics and ensuring that resources are available to invest in those priorities that we share with the devolved administration.

The Northern Ireland Executive's implementation of welfare reform was a central element of recent progress. I announced yesterday that to support the advances which have been made, I have committed to exempting from tax those top-up payments to non-taxable benefits which the Executive intends to fund from within its block grant.

This tax exemption will ensure fairness in the tax system. And it mirrors the tax treatment of welfare payments the Scottish Government will soon have the capacity to make.

It's another example of the Executive and the government being able to find ways to support the people of Northern Ireland, whether responsibilities lie at Westminster or at Stormont.

This is a Budget that delivers on our plan for working people in Northern Ireland and sets out the next steps in building a stronger Northern Ireland economy. It is crucial that we act now, rather than pay later, to ensure the UK is fit for the future.

As I have said, we must go on making the bold decisions and confronting our country's long term challenges - and that is what my Budget is all about.

Belfast Telegraph

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