Last Wednesday the Chancellor of the Exchequer unveiled a budget for ‘makers, doers and savers’. The Conservative led government has successfully turned the economy around, after inheriting the mess left by Labour, and now George Osborne is ensuring that it will be on a firm footing into the future.
The Chancellor’s statement was full of measures to encourage manufacturing, exports and to get people into jobs. There was help for parents struggling with the costs of child-care, a tax cut for about 700,000 people in Northern Ireland and measures that will allow savers to take charge of their own pension plans.
This is what can be achieved when a government is geared up to encourage enterprise, help people who are doing the right thing and prioritise jobs. It’s clearly paying dividends, with experts at the Office for Budget Responsibility predicting that growth will be higher than previous estimates and that borrowing will be down.
George Osborne’s work is having an effect on Northern Ireland too. Our economy is finally growing consistently and the total number of people out of work is falling. Unfortunately, though, we’re not keeping pace with the rest of the UK, because the Northern Ireland Executive is not doing its part to create more jobs and attract investment.
One of the best pieces of news in last week’s budget was the announcement that Northern Ireland will get its first Enterprise Zone, in Coleraine.
That’s a welcome development, but the Executive was first provided with the powers and the funds to set up these hubs of growth way back in 2011. While the rest of the UK enjoyed the benefits of schemes designed to encourage hi-tech industry and exports, our ministers did nothing.
The government finally cajoled the Executive into agreeing a zone in the North West. Hopefully Stormont does not stop there and takes responsibility for rolling out more in the future.
The latest budget reflects George’s Osborne’s focus on long-term prosperity, by concentrating on jobs, helping hard-working people and rewarding those who are saving for the future.
Thanks to the Conservative Party’s leadership, the economy is likely to continue to improve and Northern Ireland will continue to benefit. It is up to the Executive to maximise that potential, rather than allowing us to lag behind, when it comes to employment and growth.