Belfast Telegraph

Reliance on the public purse is unsustainable, says Villiers

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

Northern Ireland's dependence on the public purse is unsustainable, the Secretary of State has warned.

Theresa Villiers said there was an urgent need to re-balance the local economy given the current pressures on public finances.

In an address to politicians and business leaders at the Long Gallery in Stormont, Ms Villiers said: "Northern Ireland remains far too dependent on public spending to underpin economic activity. According to a number of reports, public spending here accounts for three quarters of the whole of Northern Ireland's GDP."

The Secretary of State was speaking at the Northern Ireland Assembly and Business Trust annual President's Dinner. She added: "At the same time unemployment, while hovering around the national average, remains too high, albeit lower than in the Republic of Ireland. We need to revive the private sector."

Issues such as planning, education, training and skills, apprenticeships, business rates and spending on infrastructure projects have all been devolved to the Stormont Executive but Ms Villiers said reviving the private sector remained a pressing priority for Whitehall. She said: "I believe the measures we are taking to rescue the UK economy as a whole will bear fruit here. But there is more that the UK Government can do to help."

The Secretary of State said she believed reducing corporation tax would help stimulate economic growth and told the audience she would be urging her Cabinet colleagues to resolve the issue.

She added: "The Prime Minister is continuing to consider the case for devolving the power to set corporation tax to the Assembly. He'll be discussing this, along with other matters, with the First and Deputy First Minister when he meets them later this month."

In June, the leaders of the world's eight richest countries will gather in Co Fermanagh for the G8. Ms Villiers said the event should be seized as an opportunity to showcase Northern Ireland.

Belfast Telegraph