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Minister praises banks' support for co-ownership scheme

Sammy Wilson has tried to smooth over his choppy relationship with Northern Ireland's banking community by praising some for working closely with him to get the co-ownership housing scheme off the ground.

At a business breakfast organised by property company CPS yesterday, the finance minister said "three banks" have put their full backing behind the scheme and helped make it a success.

His comments come a day after he threatened to name and shame those lenders which are failing to help struggling businesses here and before he sits down to speak directly with the banks.

Speaking to a packed room in the Merchant Hotel, the minister turned his attention to his own politicians and the media.

"We need to get balance into a debate about what's happening in our economy," he said.

"I'm not sure that as politicians we did that and that has set the mood for the media, so that even when we have good news, it is turned into bad news."

In a wide-ranging speech relating to the property market, Mr Wilson said that as finance minister, he has looked at the restricted budget he has been given and tried to "work" the Executive's assets by leveraging the likes of Housing Executive property.

And, on the threat from the Republic's bad bank, Nama, he said he wasn't overly worried.

"I'm more relaxed than some people," he said.

"There hasn't been a firesale of property in Northern Ireland and it's been managed responsibly. If I had one criticism, it's that Nama has been slow and bureaucratic."

And he revealed his thinking on how much a reduction in Northern Ireland's corporation tax to 12.5% from the current rate of 24% would cost, pegging the figure at £530m.


The finance minister's predicted cost of cutting corporation tax to 12.5%