Budget a ‘slap in the face’

George Osborne holds up his Ministerial Box outside No 11
George Osborne holds up his Ministerial Box outside No 11

Derry’s MP has slammed the Westminster Budget saying it is a “slap in the face to the worst off in society – not least here in Derry.”

SDLP MP Mark Durkan says the Budget - announced by British Chancellor George Osborne on Wednesday - contains “certain welcome measures, but these are nothing compared to the shameful decision to reduce the top rate of tax to 45%.”

“The tax cut of the high rate of 50% is a very telling signal of the government’s real priorities.

“The justification that it will make little difference is of course based on the fact that many people who were liable for the tax were able to avoid it because it had been signalled in advance; therefore judging it on one year is not a valid impact measure. It is also the case that this also facilitates a calendar-managed avoidance.”

Mr Durkan welcomed moves to increase personal allowances for the lower paid .

“The coalition government are presenting the tax relief to the lower paid as the counter-weight to that for the super-paid, but the Chancellor is not advertising the fact that he is adjusting other bands to take more people into the 40% tax bracket, many of whom would not be regarded as particularly well paid.”

Mr Durkan says he is concerned about plans to cut the welfare system.

“The Chancellor has also just passed a further tax hit on some pensioners. He also made a reference, in his analysis, that at least a further £10 billion of welfare cuts will be needed by 2016.

“This corroborates the suspicion which the SDLP has expressed that the Welfare Reform Bill was a staging post rather than the destination for the Tories’ benefit plans.

“It should be noted that the way the Welfare Reform Act was constructed could allow the government to make significant adverse changes to benefit rates and rules using the power of ministerial regulation which they gave themselves under the Welfare Reform Bill and so possibly avoiding primary legislation. Colleagues will want to consider this in the context of the pending Assembly legislation.

“The statement also saw the Chancellor championing the notion that localising public sector pay with the bizarre claim that this could help growth.

“This would be a negative, divisive, clumsy agenda which won’t help regional economies like ours or employment or assist in the delivery of strategic investment, improvement or reform of public services.”

Sinn Féin Foyle MLA Raymond McCartney says the budget offers “ little relief for those on benefits and low pay.”

“While the reduction from 50% to 45% in the highest tax rate will benefit those in the top wage brackets to the tune of thousands of pounds the minimal increase in personal allowances will have little measurable benefit to those at the very bottom of the scale - about £4 per week!

“What little benefit this measure will deliver will be more than wiped out by increases in fuel duty which will inevitably be passed on to consumers through higher goods prices,” he says.

“While the designation of Enterprise Zones in Scotland and Wales were very specific there was only a passing reference to any similar initiative for the North.”

Mr McCartney says the British Chancellor has “ once more that his government takes no particular account of the impact of their financial decisions on economy of the North of Ireland.”

“This Budget as with every other is fashioned to address the British government’s perception of what is required to rebalance the economy of the island of Britain with no regard to its effects here.

“Sinn Féin has always highlighted the inability of the Executive to invest properly in our economic recovery while dependent of fiscal decisions taken in Britain. And without the ability to raise finance through measures such as tax-varying or borrowing powers, we have no choice but to manage our steadily reducing budget, imposed by London.

“Any further reduction in in disposable income in the North’s finances will put severe pressure on the local economy and make it extremely difficult to build the private sector.

“Sinn Féin is committed to protecting frontline public services while recognising the current economic realities that exist. For our part we will work to ensure the protection of the most vulnerable.”