Belfast Telegraph

Robinson fears corporation tax wait

First Minister Peter Robinson fears the Treasury could hold back on devolution
First Minister Peter Robinson fears the Treasury could hold back on devolution

Corporation tax powers may not be devolved if Northern Ireland fails to resolve its current financial problems, the First Minister has warned.

Peter Robinson said he feared the Treasury could hold back on devolution if the impasse over welfare reform and the budget was not sorted.

He said: "My fear isn't so much that the powers are devolved and we have a difficulty implementing thereafter. My fear is that the Treasury might say 'we expect a certain level of fiscal management responsibility and therefore we'll hold back from devolving those fiscal powers'."

Stormont wants to reduce its rate of corporation tax, a levy on business profits, from the UK-wide 20% to match the 12.5% tax rate in the Republic of Ireland which is among of the lowest in Europe.

The move is likely to cost more than £200 million-a-year, which must come from the Assembly's budget without subsidy from London, according to EU rules.

Downing Street had postponed its decision until after the Scottish referendum but Prime Minister David Cameron indicated last March that it would be given no later than this year's Autumn Statement.

Mr Robinson told MLAs he had written to Mr Cameron again requesting the "swift" devolution of corporation tax powers and had assured the Treasury that the Executive was united on the matter.

However, he said, even if successful, devolution was unlikely be up and running before late 2016 or early 2017 because of "considerable procurement issues" including the purchase of an IT system.

He also said all available office space had been "soaked up" and called for the planning department and developers "to up their game" to ensure the region could provide adequate facilities for any potential new investors.

Meanwhile, DUP MLA Sammy Wilson attributed the "financial shambles" at Stormont to Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Ulster Unionists' refusal to engage in serious debate around the budgetary issues.

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