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Budget 2021: Conor Murphy plays down expectations of ‘significant’ extra cash for Northern Ireland as Rishi Sunak due to unveil spending plans


Finance Minister Conor Murphy (Pacemaker).

Finance Minister Conor Murphy (Pacemaker).

Finance Minister Conor Murphy (Pacemaker).

Stormont’s Finance Minister, Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy, has said he is not holding out hope of a significant funding increase for Northern Ireland in today’s budget announcement.

Speaking as the chancellor Rishi Sunak is due to unveil his budget plans this afternoon, Mr Murphy told the BBC there was “little indication” the government would be providing enough to “rebuild public services and spur economic recovery”.

In September, a Treasury document indicated that devolved administrations could expect a 2.5-3% increase in real terms each year in the block grant up to 2024-25.

Today’s announcement will influence the next three years of spending in Stormont, with the Executive to agree a draft budget before Christmas. 

The economist Paul Johnson from the Institute of Fiscal Studies also told the BBC said he did not believe the government would be repeating their previous policy of austerity.

"I’d be surprised if any significant part of government spending goes down. Probably most will go up, they will clearly want to give a sense of stability considering the considerable instability that we’ve had over the last couple of years."

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He added: “I’d be astonished if we get any tax increases because remember we’ve had something like £40bn of tax increases announced this year.”

Meanwhile, the DUP MP Sammy Wilson has called on the government not to punish those who are already struggling.

With record petrol prices and rising energy and food costs, Mr Wilson said the government could stand over more tax increases heading into a difficult winter.

“More locally the budget must deliver on the government's levelling up promises. Given Northern Ireland has suffered through the double whammy of Covid and the Protocol, we will be waiting to see how the Budget delivers on this levelling up agenda. Infrastructure and training are key areas where a real difference can be made,” he said.

Mr Wilson also said the hospitality sector would not cope with further cost increases after the massive disruption of the pandemic.

"As an industry which needs assistance to recover, the Government should at a minimum maintain the 12.% VAT for hospitality and not increase any of the other duties which will impact on this sector,” he said.

Other areas of concern for the East Antrim MP included Air travel in Northern Ireland as airports here have been badly hit by travel restrictions.

Mr Wilson added that he didn’t support a general extension of the furlough scheme, but said staff in the air travel sector could require some form of targeted support.

“This needs to be a budget which takes account of the pressures facing families and businesses across the United Kingdom. The government should not punish those who are already struggling. Reducing taxes can provide a stimulus to the economy and in doing so, increasing sales profits and incomes which in turn can increase the total tax take for the government."

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