Belfast Telegraph

Ni enterprise zones could follow Budget

Enterprise zones could be created in deprived parts of Northern Ireland that have good prospects for economic growth, following the announcement in the Budget of 21 zones in England.

The enterprise zones would have simpler and quicker planning procedures, reduced business rates and access to superfast broadband speeds.

Chancellor George Osborne announced that he hoped that Northern Ireland and the other devolved governments would establish their own enterprise zones. But NI finance minister Sammy Wilson disclosed that no decision has yet been finalised and no agreement reached on where zones would be located.

Mr Wilson also complained that the so-called ‘Budget for growth’ offered little prospect of growing the Northern Ireland economy.

“While there were a number of measures aimed at promoting economic growth, I am conscious of the uniqueness of our economy,” he said.

“For example, the Chancellor has announced a 15% increase in UK bank credit, but the local banking sector is dominated by banks headquartered in the Republic of Ireland so a more tailored solution is needed.”

Other measures on issues such as R&D tax credits, capital allowances, tax thresholds and fuel duties will undoubtedly be welcomed by many locally.

Mr Wilson also welcomed the deferral of the aggregates levy increase and confirmation by the UK Government that it will legislate, subject to EU approval, to continue the NI credit scheme until 2021.

Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce president Francis Martin was more positive about the Budget.

He welcomed the freezing of the rise in air passenger duty until next year and said that changes to the Enterprise Investment Scheme should increase funding for indigenous Northern Ireland businesses.

The Chamber and the Federation of Small Businesses are calling for the creation of a single enterprise zone to be established for the whole of Northern Ireland.

This option has also been flagged by the prime minister and the Northern Ireland secretary, Owen Paterson.

Belfast Telegraph