Belfast Telegraph

We all want better living standards

By Liam Clarke

AS George Osborne announced his Budget, living standards were the elephant in the room. Ordinary people hear about an economic recovery but aren't yet experiencing it, especially in a region like Northern Ireland.

The good news for Northern Ireland, however, was an enterprise zone in Coleraine. That promises 15 new private sector jobs to a region which lost 300 public sector jobs at the Driver and Vehicle Agency last week. It may be a driver to other infrastructural investment in the future, but in the meantime the cost to the local economy will be high.

The cost of the recession is still falling most heavily on the poor. There was no increase in the minimum wage and welfare spending is being cut.

Our small regional economy needs careful management to sustain decent living standards. We simply can't afford to pay politicians to wrangle over flags, parading and the past when the present is so uncertain.

We also can't afford the costly stand-off over welfare reform at a time when it is abundantly clear London will let us bear the ruinous cost ourselves. We need to cut the best deal we can and to look at new ways to protect claimants.

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