Murphy tells Derry businesses Rishi Sunak's £1.6bn claim does not reflect reality

Finance Minister, Conor Murphy, told business delegates in Derry on Tuesday that British Chancellor Rishi Sunak's claim in his recent Budget statements that the Executive's spending power had increased by £1.6billion did not reflect the reality.

Finance Minister Conor Murphy with Paul Clancy, Chief Executive & Dawn McLaughlin, President of Londonderry Chamber of Commerce.
Finance Minister Conor Murphy with Paul Clancy, Chief Executive & Dawn McLaughlin, President of Londonderry Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. Murphy, speaking at an event for local businesses hosted by Londonderry Chamber of Commerce in the City Hotel this morning, said the real-term increases were far more modest.

"The Spending Review did not increase the Executive’s spending power by £1.6bn as indicated by the Treasury. Compared to this year’s budget it will see an increase in day to day spending of £450m next year, £670m the year after and £866m in year three.

"While any increase in cash is welcome, once inflation is taken into account this represents a flat budget over the period. Therefore meeting the significant pressures on public services will be challenging," he said.

The Finance Minister, who yesterday confirmed £200m extra for the health service - 90% of total resource allocation - in the October monitoring round, said health was a top priority for him.

“Our health service is under immense pressure with waiting lists at an unprecedented level. Businesses are facing skill shortages and increased costs. While families are facing a cost of living crisis with rising food and energy costs, the increase in National Insurance and the disgraceful cut by Westminster to Universal Credit," he said.

He told local business delegates that tackling inequality and supporting economic development were also priorities.

“The Executive has agreed to prioritise health. There is also consensus that additional resources should be diverted to support economic development including skills, the transition to net zero and tackling inequality. Departments have been asked to submit proposals against these priorities. It will be challenging to deliver on all of these given the limited funding available to us. The task for the Executive now is to make the best possible use of the resources available.”

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Finance Minister Conor Murphy confirms £200m extra for health service - 90% of t...

Mr. Murphy said he wanted to work with Executive colleagues to deliver a draft budget by Christmas.

“Over the next few weeks I will be meeting with Executive colleagues, the business sector and community groups to discuss how our budget should be distributed between different Departments and different priorities.

“Despite the significant pressures facing us, I am determined to work collectively with Ministerial colleagues to produce a multi-year budget that delivers for citizens and businesses here. I look forward to continuing engagement in the time ahead as we work towards a draft budget.”

Londonderry Chamber Chief Executive Paul Clancy said: “We were pleased to be able to bring together business leaders in the North West, Finance Minister Murphy, and departmental officials to discuss the budget process. This was an excellent opportunity for our members and businesses across the North West to engage directly with the Minister and make their voices and their concerns heard.

“Last week’s Budget announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak MP made some positive steps for Northern Ireland including a planned reduction in air passenger duty, a rationalisation of alcohol taxes, and further allocation of funding through the Barnett formula.

"The Chancellor also made significant moves on business rates, which local businesses are keen to see replicated in Northern Ireland, and we hope that the Executive continues to work closely with businesses to support them as we emerge from the pandemic.

“I again want to thank the Minister and the Department of Finance for taking this opportunity to engage with businesses in the North West and we look forward to working with the department as they bring forward a draft budget before the end of the year.”