Belfast Telegraph

Key measures will lift confidence of both businesses and consumers

By Nigel Smith

The Budget statement has gone some way to building business and consumer confidence with a number of measures being of key note.

The agreement to exempt Northern Ireland electricity generators from the Carbon Floor Price effective from April 1 is something CBI has lobbied hard for.

This tax would have cost Northern Ireland £175m over the next five years and would have had a detrimental impact on commercial and domestic energy prices.

The CBI strongly welcomes an extra £94m of capital spending power for the Executive, which will help generate employment and kickstart a number of key infrastructure programmes.

The cancellation of the fuel duty escalator due in the autumn will be welcomed by consumers and businesses alike, while a new employment allowance from April 2014 will allow 25,000 Ulster businesses to offset £2,000 against their National Insurance bill, saving a total of £35m and taking 10,000 Northern Ireland firms out of employer NICs altogether.

Another 7,000 people in Northern Ireland will also be lifted out of income tax altogether, while 80,000 families will receive support towards childcare costs – which again shows the Chancellor's commitment to making work pay.

The announcement of the Equity Guarantee Scheme on 95% mortgages will also mean first-time buyers in Northern Ireland only need a £5,000 deposit on average.

While this is a pro-business budget with some helpful measures, we believe more significant policy levers need to be introduced to address our rising unemployment, and the absence of meaningful growth in employment.

Today's labour figures bring this again to the fore.

While the cut to overall UK corporation tax is to be welcomed, it is the meeting with the Prime Minister next week on the decision to devolve corporation tax that will have a more fundamental influence on the future of the Northern Ireland economy and the opportunities for our young people.

Belfast Telegraph