Difficult times remain ahead but there is progress, says Villiers

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers

Although Coleraine will get an enterprise zone, it will not operate under the same regulations as in England, Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said last night.

Ms Villiers said that it would bring jobs to the East Londonderry town and that already a major data centre had decided to locate there,partly because of the tax incentives offered by the enterprise zone.

But she told the News Letter that although the Government was enthusiastic about the project as an attempt to “rebalance theNorthern Ireland economy”, the enterprise zone would only have tax breaks – not the relaxed planning rules common elsewhere.

She said that firms which want to invest significant sums in technology or manufacturing equipment would be able to deduct thatfrom their tax bill “much more quickly than they would elsewhere so they end up with a better deal on their corporation tax”.

She added: “In other parts of the UK, there are various enhancements to the planning regime that also go with enterprise zones but because that is a devolved matter it’s really the tax benefits which are going to be key to the [Coleraine] enterprise zone.”

Ms Villiers dismissed Sinn Fein’s claim that the budget would inflict “devastation” on the most vulnerable in society.

She said that by increasing the threshold at which income tax is paid, nearly 700,000 people in the Province would be paying less income tax.

And in a warning about the state of the public finances in coming years, she added: “This is about providing support for hard-working people during a time which we all accept is difficult. We are still dealing with austerity and there will be more difficult decisions to come.

“But there is also good news today about the claimant count coming down for 13 months in a row and increasingly strong forecasts for growth across the UK economy.”