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Cameron may defer Northern Ireland cuts for a year

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Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Prime Minister David Cameron and Democratic Unionist First Minister Peter Robinson and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Paterson at Stormont Castle in Belfast,  Thursday May 20, 2010.

Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Prime Minister David Cameron and Democratic Unionist First Minister Peter Robinson and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Paterson at Stormont Castle in Belfast, Thursday May 20, 2010.

Paul Faith

Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Prime Minister David Cameron and Democratic Unionist First Minister Peter Robinson at Stormont Castle in Belfast,  Thursday May 20, 2010.

Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Prime Minister David Cameron and Democratic Unionist First Minister Peter Robinson at Stormont Castle in Belfast, Thursday May 20, 2010.

Paul Faith

Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Prime Minister David Cameron and Democratic Unionist First Minister Peter Robinson at Stormont Castle in Belfast,  Thursday May 20, 2010.

Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Prime Minister David Cameron and Democratic Unionist First Minister Peter Robinson at Stormont Castle in Belfast, Thursday May 20, 2010.

Paul Faith

/

Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Prime Minister David Cameron and Democratic Unionist First Minister Peter Robinson and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Paterson at Stormont Castle in Belfast, Thursday May 20, 2010.

Cuts to Northern Ireland's budget could be deferred to next year, Prime Minister David Cameron said today.



Assets like government buildings could have to be sold to make up the shortfall but the country may face a double whammy of savings because of the delay, Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson warned.

David Cameron met the First Minister and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at Stormont today.

Mr Cameron said: "If they want to delay action to the next year that is a matter for them, that is part of the respect agenda we believe in.

"We are a United Kingdom, we are all in this together, the massive budget deficit we have is a UK budget deficit, it is a threat to all our economies."



Mr Cameron sparked anger recently when he singled out Northern Ireland for its high levels of public spending and he again reiterated that the private sector needed greater support. Around 70% of local GDP is linked to the public sector.

Mr Cameron added: "The government we lead, yes it wants to deal with the deficit but it is not a government of accountants, it is a government that wants to do things differently and better and try to save money at the same time."

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Mr Robinson said there were serious threats to frontline services if cuts were imposed immediately.

"If you stop new projects being built you have an impact on the construction industry at a time when the construction industry is reeling," he said.

"We lag behind the UK in terms of recovery and the impact may be even greater."

He said assets may have to be sold off although the deflated property market made it a difficult time to sell.

The First Minister said there may be £200 million of cuts if the £6 billion UK-wide savings were divided equally but admitted there may be other ways of deciding where the axe would fall.

He said the final decision on when to take the cuts would rest with the ministerial Executive.

Today's discussions covered local demands for a lowering of the rate of corporation tax in line with the Republic of Ireland. It also addressed Mr Cameron's election promise to designate Northern Ireland an enterprise zone, although more details have not been released.



Mr Cameron said creating an enterprise zone and examining corporation tax could play a role in building a stronger private sector.

"What is the alternative if we do nothing? The dangers of higher interest rates, the dangers of our economy turning down are much greater," he added.

"Much can be delivered by cutting waste and inefficiency."

He said the longer you leave debt the worse the problem becomes.

Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson echoed the leader's words, saying it is "irresponsible to do nothing".

Mr Robinson said major cuts could already be expected this autumn.

"We have not got to the stage of reading the print never mind the small print, that is the business of the next weeks and months," he said.

Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Mr McGuinness said it was a good meeting, adding that the Executive would receive further papers from Whitehall on the economy. He also said he had received assurances that the report into Bloody Sunday would be published in the next couple of weeks.

"That would be of enormous assistance to everybody who wishes to see the outcome of those deliberations which went on for many years," he said.






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