Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

We need to know the truth about corporation tax debate

Something strange has happened on corporation tax. Like a mirage in the desert, it seems to recede a little further just as we are about to reach it.

Back in June, Chancellor George Osborne seemed fully onside. He said the cost to our block grant would be independently assessed by the Office of Budgetary Responsibility (OBR), an independent body.

"They [the OBR] can take into account not only the money that is lost, but also potentially the jobs and investment that comes in," he said on a visit to Ballymena's Wrightbus factory. In other words, if Westminster benefitted from reduced social welfare costs and increased VAT receipts here, they would take that off our bill.

We were being treated as a special case.

The first sign of trouble came in a Financial Times article clearly based on Treasury briefings.

It suggested that reducing corporation tax wouldn't help us much and would only make Scotland jealous.

Now the cost decision has been taken off the OBR and kicked back to a team of Westminster and Stormont ministers to haggle over for as long as suits them. Finance Minister Sammy Wilson says there will be no reduction in the life of this Assembly.

We need to know what happened behind the scenes, but the politicians - locally and nationally - aren't being entirely straight with us.

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