Belfast Telegraph

Arlene Foster outlines her five priorities to improve life in Northern Ireland for everyone

By Staff Reporter

First Minister Arlene Foster will today set out her stall on how she intends to tackle the major economic and infrastructural problems facing Northern Ireland.

In a keynote speech to the DUP's annual spring conference, she will tell the party she has five main priorities.

In her first major conference as leader she will outline her vision as creating jobs and increasing incomes; protecting family budgets; prioritising spending on the health service; raising standards in education, and investing in infrastructure.

On jobs and incomes, Mrs Foster will say: "In the last five years, we have promoted over 40,000 jobs though foreign direct investment, business start-ups and local support.

"With the reduction of corporation tax to 12.5% from April 2018, I believe we can create tens of thousands of jobs by 2020."

Mrs Foster will add that she will look out for families, and will also praise her ministerial colleagues.

"Due to the tough decisions taken by DUP Finance Ministers, Northern Ireland continues to have the lowest household taxes anywhere in the UK," she will say.

"We pay half as much as people in England and around 60% of the average in Scotland. In this next Assembly term I want to continue protecting household budgets, ensuring we don't raise a penny more in household taxes than is needed."

The DUP leader will also speak of how health is a major issue for Northern Ireland and top of her list of priorities.

"I believe the single most important role for Government in Northern Ireland is to provide the best possible health service for all of our people," she will tell the party conference.

"That's why our Health Ministers have employed 1,200 more nurses and almost 300 more consultants. At the same time, we have tackled waste and saved £800m. To build on this work will involve a significant cross-party agreement on reform but will also require prioritising funding.

"That's why in the next five years we will increase the health budget by at least £1bn to employ more doctors and nurses and to reduce waiting times."

The First Minister will speak about her vision for education, saying the system must be fair to all children.

"We rightly take pride in the best of our education system, which produces better exam results than anywhere else in the UK," she will say. "But we must make sure that every child is given a chance in life.

"I want to build an education system which does not play favourites but is fair to every sector, every school and every child."

Infrastructure investment in several sectors is in Mrs Foster's sights. "This means building new schools, new roads and new hospitals so that Northern Ireland is prepared for the future," she will tell delegates.

The First Minister will promise tangible action to make her aims a reality. "That is why I am asking for the support of people from right across Northern Ireland, from people who have always loyally supported us and from people who are prepared to give us a chance," she will say.

"I can't promise the Earth, but I will promise to be as good as my word."

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