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Budget ‘anti-family, anti-student and anti-public sector worker’

Chancellor George Osborne’s ‘Budget for working people’ has been slammed as the exact opposite.

A Newry and Armagh Assemblyman says he has delivered a Budget which is anti-family, anti-student and anti-public sector worker, which will see hard working families punished.

There were a number of specific decisions taken by the Chancellor which will have an impact for many people here.

These include:

· Vehicle Excise Duty – Reform of Vehicle Excise Duty designed to target more expensive vehicles with the proceeds to support a roads fund in England. Engagement with devolved administrations on a similar scheme will take place.

· Fuel Duty – Fuel duty will remain frozen this year.

· Annual Investment Allowance – will be set at £200,000.

· Corporation Tax – The Dividend Tax System is to be reformed and Corporation Tax is to fall to 19% in 2017 and 18% in 2020.

· Welfare – £12billion is to be found in the welfare system. This includes a number of changes that will have an impact on the welfare reform issue in Northern Ireland.

· Tax Free Personal Allowance – This will be raised to £11,000 next year.

· Tax Lock – There will be no changes in the main rates of income tax, National Insurance or VAT.

· Income Tax – In future, those working 30 hours a week on the National Minimum Wage will not pay income tax and the higher rate of tax will increase to £43,000 in 2016-17

· National Living Wage – To be set at £7.20 in April 2016, to rise to £9 per hour by 2020.

· National Insurance Contributions – Small firms will be able to employ four people without having to pay National Insurance from 2016.

There was also no changes on alcohol and tobacco.

Local Assemblyman Dominic Bradley, who is the SDLP’s Finance Spokesperson, said the Budget “will do little to support hard pressed families across the North and the consequences are yet unknown on the block grant which the Northern Ireland Executive receive”.

He added: “The proposals to continue to limit the public sector pay rise to one per cent per annum is effectively a wage cut for those who often are the lower paid in our public services such as health and education.

“Those who work and depend on tax credits to top up their low wage will also be concerned about the Chancellor’s proposals and I fear will place many families in real financial hardship.

“The proposal to scrap the grants to those in further and higher education and replace them with student loans will only push students further into debt as they finish their academic careers and I would be particularly concerned about the measures around reducing housing benefit and believe this will only add to the problem of housing stress.

“In addition, families who have been struggling to make ends meet by living on the minimum wage and working tax credits found themselves on the wrong end of the Budget announcement today.

“Many will be forced to debate if it is possible to work and pay bills now, and will find the answer is no. The government claimed this Budget would get people into work. I fear it will push people out of work.

“Furthermore, George Osborne’s Living Wage of £9 by 2020 pledge is an illusion. It is based on figures from the Resolution Foundation which said if work credits and benefits were cut, it should be £12.”

Mr Bradley said he would be asking that Department of Finance and Personnel officials at Stormont provide a briefing on the impact of the Budget on public spending in Northern Ireland and the impact on the ongoing discussions around welfare reform.

He said: “Whilst many of the Chancellor’s announcements have yet to be worked out in full, and the impact locally is still relatively unknown, I can only sum this Budget up as anti-family, anti-public sector worker and anti-student.

“I don’t believe this Budget strikes the right balance in supporting the most vulnerable in our community and stimulating economic growth.”

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Arlene Foster MLA says the Chancellor’s Budget reinforces the need for the Executive to agree a way forward.

The Minister welcomed the Chancellor’s commitment to work with all parties to deliver the Stormont House Agreement and warned that the local Budget context had not materially changed.

The Minister said: “The Budget clearly reflects the UK government’s policy aspirations and should not come as a surprise. It is now time for the Executive to face the reality of the financial context and agree a way forward on the local implementation of welfare reform, protecting the most vulnerable without crippling public services.

“We have an unsustainable budget position for 2015-16 and we must press ahead with the implementation of the Stormont House Agreement to ensure the delivery of public services to those who need them most.

“While I welcome the reduction in the pace of welfare reform I have reservations that the changes to working tax credits have the potential to impact negatively on people entering the workplace.

“Despite the promising growth within the UK and local economy as a whole, the outlook for 2015-16 and beyond will continue to be challenging for public sector finances.”

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