Axe Northern Ireland's air tax and cut fuel duty
The Budget revealed measures that will bring changes for Northern Ireland consumers across a range of issues, including the price of a pint, pensions, savings limits and tax allowances.
However, two changes that were needed were not delivered: the removal of air passenger duty (APD) on flights to and from Northern Ireland and a reduction in fuel duty.
The Chancellor announced that the two highest levels of APD that affect long haul flights are to be removed, but this will have no impact in Northern Ireland as our Executive had already secured the removal of APD on direct (long-haul) flights.
However, there is currently only one route (to New York) that this applies to, whereas more than 98% of our journeys are to destinations within the UK, which still incur APD.
It adds £13 on every flight from a UK airport, or £104 in tax for a family of four travelling to London and back.
The same family would pay nothing in tax travelling to New York and back.
The Chancellor also announced that the scheduled fuel duty increase for September 2014 has been cancelled.
Fuel duty is the largest part of the price we pay at the pumps – 60% of the total.
Figures from the AA show that prices are at their lowest levels for three years. However, they are still 40% higher than they were five years ago.
Consumer Council research found that the price of petrol and diesel is consumers' third top concern. Removing APD and reducing fuel duty would make a real difference to consumers.
Take, for example, Ryanair's announcement last week that it would deliver increased services for airports in the Republic and new routes to important economic links, such as Germany and France. This has been directly attributed to the Irish government's decision to scrap its equivalent of APD – Air Travel Tax.
It stands to reason that, if Westminster took the same action, it could bring similar, positive developments for consumers here.
This must be given serious consideration.