Belfast Telegraph

Mixed response to spending plans

Investors will enjoy renewed confidence in the Northern Ireland economy after the draft budget, business leaders have said.

Ministers demonstrated leadership in protecting front line services and attempting to stimulate the economy, according to the Institute of Directors (IOD).

Among projects Finance Minister Sammy Wilson said could go ahead are the new police and fire training centre, a radiotherapy centre at Altnagelvin Hospital and sports stadia projects.

Joanne Stuart, who chairs the IoD in Northern Ireland, said: "The ministers are demonstrating the leadership we need and by setting a four-year budget are creating greater confidence for both local and inward investors.

"It is encouraging that the DETI (Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment) and DEL (Department for Employment and Learning) budgets are receiving a level of protection and the job creation package will provide unemployed people with badly needed opportunities for employment and skills enhancement."

The IoD said investment in the Green New Deal was a far-sighted move and the need for public sector pay restraint was recognised by mirroring UK Government plans.

"By comparison to recent private sector experience, the pain for public sector workers is mild," Ms Stuart added. Overall, the Executive has to be congratulated on producing a credible budget for consultation."

But the draft budget prompted an angry reaction from the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (Nipsa), which represents many civil servants, with a warning of more pain ahead.

General secretary Brian Campfield said: "We already know that these budget proposals will result in tens of thousands of job losses in both the public and private sectors, further attacks on public servants' pay and terms and conditions and the imposition of additional costs via rate rises and a range of new local taxes.

"Nipsa does not accept that the Northern Ireland Executive has done the best for the public and its public service employees."

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