With further concessions on business rates and enhanced tax benefits for the Coleraine Enterprise Zone, just two initiatives of direct benefit to the Province, Chancellor George Osborne’s Budget was widely welcomed across Northern Ireland.
Finance Minister Mervyn Storey said the region would receive £223 million in additional funding for public services.
“This funding will help to alleviate some of this pressure, as well as allowing us the flexibility to allocate additional funding towards health, skills and education,” he said.
In the week of Cheltenham, PwC chief economist Dr Esmond Birnie said: “The Chancellor has taken a massive punt on his ability to stimulate small business growth and support domestic consumption in the hope of getting it all back in the final year of the current parliament.”
Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association CEO Glyn Roberts said: “Overall this is a positive budget for small traders with its emphasis on lowering tax, reforming business rates and supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs.
“With the Chancellor announcing that many small retailers will now be paying no rates at all in GB, the NI Executive has some serious catching up to do with reforming our business rates.”
Wilfred Mitchell, Federation of Small Businesses NI policy chair, said there were a number of welcome elements such as the fuel freeze and the scrapping of Class 2 National Insurance contributions.
“FSB also welcomes the decision to extend enhanced capital allowances to Coleraine Enterprise Zone.
“If this works as a pilot to stimulate the local north west economy, the Chancellor should then extend the approach to the whole of Northern Ireland.”
For the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, CEO Ann McGregor said: “The further reduction of corporation tax is an indication that it is indeed a useful economic tool and gives further credibility to the long-term campaign to have this measure devolved.
“It is positive that the rate in Northern Ireland will remain at a significantly lower level than our GB neighbours.”
CBI NI director Nigel Smyth said: “This was a stable Budget for business facing global stormy waters.
“The Chancellor has listened to our concerns about the cumulative burden on firms and chosen to back business to grow the economy out of the deficit.
“It is notable how the Chancellor has taken a strategic approach with a strong focus on longer term issues.”
Angela McGowan, chief economist at Danske Bank, said: “Despite recent economic growth, [Mr Osborne] confirmed that UK debt levels have risen further over the past six years.
“However, it should be noted that the forecast growth rate for the UK still remains fairly healthy at just over two per cent – although this rate is predicated on the UK staying in Europe.”