SDLP MP Mark Durkan says there are ‘a few positive rays’ in the British Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Autumn statement and an otherwise ‘gloomy and dismal’ outlook.
Mr Durkan said: “I warmly welcome that Derry is one of 12 ‘smaller cities’ to benefit from the £50m Urban Broadband Fund to help expand the coverage of ultra-fast broadband and high-speed public wifi services in the city.
“We must commend everyone in Digital Derry for an exciting project and Derry City Council for their involvement in their successful bid for the ‘super-connected cities’ fund.
“I also welcome the news that January’s 3p fuel tax rise will not only be postponed but scrapped altogether – as I and everyone who supported the FairFuelUK’s campaign were calling for.
“I also welcome the news of the Carbon Price Floor exemption.”
The Derry MP added: “However, I’m afraid that on personal taxation and benefits, the Chancellor is becoming something of a ‘fiscal drag artist’.
“He is using fiscal drag to try to mask the fact that he is cutting benefits in real terms.
“Having delivered income tax cuts for the wealthy he has made it clear that he is planning cuts for those in welfare in next year’s budget and beyond.
“Indeed, he has outlined that there are more cuts to come and that more people will lose benefits and have lower entitlements in the future.
“On another tax front I do welcome the fact that he has cut through all the Treasury-excusery against the general anti-abuse or anti-avoidance rules, but surely if he is to be more robust and if (the government) is going to have a meaningful authority of the G8 presidency to co-ordinate against corporate tax-conjuring, surely he has to start by revisiting the controlled foreign company rules that he made in the last budget.
“In addition, there is money for Queen’s University Belfast who will benefit from a £32m research partnership for the Institute of Health Science. They have also recently benefitted from extra STEM places from the Executive that they hadn’t originally asked for. Therefore, some of the extra money that the Executive can now plan with (i.e. the additional monies from the Barnett consequentials) should now be used to revisit the number of students at Magee.”