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Budget 2020: 'Not great' result for Northern Ireland, says Alliance MP Farry

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak outside 11 Downing Street, London, before heading to the House of Commons to deliver his Budget. Photo credit: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

Chancellor Rishi Sunak outside 11 Downing Street, London, before heading to the House of Commons to deliver his Budget. Photo credit: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak outside 11 Downing Street, London, before heading to the House of Commons to deliver his Budget. Photo credit: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

Alliance MP Stephen Farry said Wednesday's budget was "not great" for Northern Ireland.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced an extra £210m for the Northern Ireland Executive as part of his budget on Wednesday.

The money will result in a nominal increase of Northern Ireland's £10billion block grant from the UK Government.

Part of the government's wide ranging spending plans included the establishment of a Treasury Office in Northern Ireland and in other devolved regions.

The recently-installed Chancellor also unveiled a £30bn plan to aid the UK's fight against the coronavirus.

Other measures announced include abolishing of the tampon tax from next year and a freeze on all alcohol duties. and fuel duty.

North Down MP Stephen Farry wrote on Twitter that Northern Ireland's "particular circumstances have not been taken into account".

"Nothing on Air Passenger Duty (APD), nothing to help businesses prepare for the NI Protocol, and only 210m in Barnett consequentials. Focus must be on public sector reform and investing in key economic drivers."

APD is a levy imposed on air travellers that varies depending on destination and class of travel and doesn't apply on long haul flights from Northern Ireland.

UUP leader Steve Aiken said he was very disappointed APD had not been abolished for Northern Ireland flights.

However he welcomed the budget and said he was supportive of the government's spending increases and coronavirus mitigation and said it must be extended to Northern Ireland.

“For our Executive there are real choices to be made; however, first and foremost, those mitigation measures to deal with Covid19 must be passed on in full to our NHS, our small businesses and our hospitality sector," the South Antrim MLA said.

“While the full outruns of the Barnett consequentials are still being calculated there is real opportunity for Northern Ireland to urgently improve our infrastructure, to bid for a significant part of the new research and development budget, and to take advantages of the forthcoming environmental changes advocated by the Chancellor.

“After years of austerity, we can welcome the easing of many of the fiscal restraints - it is now up to the Northern Ireland Executive to respond sensibly, to ditch ‘pet’ projects and to use this opportunity to invest for all of our futures - this chance may not come again.”

Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts gave the budget a guarded welcome and praised the government's approach to the coronavirus outbreak.

He called for rates relief announced for small businesses in England to be replicated in Northern Ireland.

"Our members are paying astronomical levels of business rates, which are dramatically higher than any other part of the UK and desperately need this relief," Mr Roberts said.

“Northern Ireland will be getting its share of this rates decrease via the ‘Barnett’ formula and it must apply to local small businesses.”

Mr Sunak said there is likely to be a "temporary disruption" to the economy due to the coronavirus while up to a fifth of the working age population could be off at any one time and promised "whatever extra resources our NHS needs" to combat coronavirus.

The Chancellor said that the Government will meet the cost for businesses with fewer than 250 employees of providing statutory sick pay to those off work as a result of the virus.

Temporary business loans and rates relief will also be available to support small and medium-sized businesses with their cash flow, while local authorities will be granted a £500m hardship fund to protect the most vulnerable.

He also announced reforms to the benefits system to make it easier to access funds. Before the budget, the Bank of England set an emergency interest rate cut from 0.75% to 0.25%.

"We will get through this - together. The British people may be worried, but they are not daunted." the Chancellor said.

"We will protect our country and our people. We will rise to this challenge."

The Chancellor announced more than £600bn in infrastructure spending in road, rail, housing and broadband projects to boost growth in the rest of the UK, outside the major hubs of London and south-east England.

Mr Sunak also abolished tax relief on red diesel for most sectors. The changes will not take effect for two years and the relief will be retained for agriculture, rail, domestic heating and fishing.

An increase in the National Insurance threshold from £8,632 to £9,500 will be worth £100 a year to 31 million people, the Chancellor said.

VAT on books, newspapers, magazines and academic journals will be scrapped from December 1, while a £1 billion building safety fund will be set up to ensure all unsafe combustible cladding is removed from buildings above 59ft (18m) tall in the wake of the Grenfell fire disaster.

Belfast Telegraph