Northern Ireland business leaders praise for budget
Investors will enjoy renewed confidence in the Northern Ireland economy after today's draft budget, business leaders said.
Ministers demonstrated leadership in protecting front line services and attempting to stimulate the economy, according to the Institute of Directors (IOD).
Among projects Finance Minister Sammy Wilson said could go ahead are the new police and fire training centre, a radiotherapy centre at Altnagelvin Hospital and sports stadia projects.
However, the draft budget, completed on Tuesday night after hours of discussion between ministers, prompted an angry reaction from a civil servants' trade union.
Joanne Stuart, who chairs the IoD in Northern Ireland, said: "The ministers are demonstrating the leadership we need and by setting a four-year budget are creating greater confidence for both local and inward investors.
"It is encouraging that the DETI (Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment) and DEL (Department for Employment and Learning) budgets are receiving a level of protection and the job creation package will provide unemployed people with badly needed opportunities for employment and skills enhancement."
Northern Ireland is the last devolved region to formally agree a budget. The Executive has to find cumulative savings of £4 billion over four years because of the Chancellor's spending review.
The IoD said investment in the Green New Deal was a far-sighted move and the need for public sector pay restraint was recognised by mirroring UK Government plans.
"By comparison to recent private sector experience, the pain for public sector workers is mild," Ms Stuart added.
"Overall the Executive has to be congratulated on producing a credible budget for consultation."
But the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (Nipsa), which represents many civil servants, warned of more pain ahead.
General secretary Brian Campfield said: "We already know that these budget proposals will result in tens of thousands of job losses in both the public and private sectors, further attacks on public servants pay and terms and conditions and the imposition of additional costs via rate rises and a range of new local taxes.
"Nipsa does not accept that the Northern Ireland Executive has done the best for the public and its public service employees.
"The Executive needs to challenge the Westminster Government much more vigorously in opposing the cuts."
The Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association said it was pleased the budget prioritised addressing the "huge" number of quangos.
Chief executive Glyn Roberts said: "On the whole this draft budget, given the difficult economic circumstances, could have been a lot worse with severe hikes in business rates."
Northern Bank chief economist Angela McGowan said businesses and local householders would enjoy confidence and clarity.
"The Northern Ireland Executive gains credibility and the economy will benefit as political leaders from across the political divide make progress in seeking to grow the local economy for all," she said.
"The fact that this budget presents plans for a four-year period, as opposed to the usual three, should also be welcomed. As a result the business community and our government departments will now be better able to plan, and with that comes greater confidence."