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Chancellor pledges £650m extra for Northern Ireland

Chancellor Philip Hammond delivers his Budget. Credit: PA

Chancellor Philip Hammond has allocated a further £650m for Northern Ireland in his Budget.

It is expected the funding will be split over the next three years.

The additional money comes in the form of a bigger block grant, via the Barnett formula, that ensures when public spending is increased in England, there are proportional increases in the devolved regions.

For example, the chancellor's decision to commit an extra £2.8bn to NHS England has resulted in an increase in health spending here.

Also included in the Budget was a consultation on a 'city deal' for Belfast which grants cities greater powers to determine how public money should be spent, how best to help businesses grow and how to stimulate economic growth.

The government has also announced a freeze on air passenger duty (APD) for short-haul flights and a call for evidence around the impact of VAT and APD levels on tourism in Northern Ireland.

In a move to appeal to younger voters, Mr Hammond also opted to scrap stamp duty for first-time buyers on properties valued up to £300,000.

The UUP's finance spokesman Steve Aiken welcomed the announcement of additional money for Northern Ireland but said, "Further clarity is urgently needed on it in order for the real impact to be properly assessed".

He also noted that the region will not benefit from a recommended cut in business rates, as this is a devolved issue and and "the last Executive failed to address the issue".

The South Antrim MLA also said that even modest increases in public sector pay would not be enacted here as the absence of ministers means such decisions cannot be signed off.

Glyn Roberts, the chief executive of Retail NI, responding to Mr Hammon'd Budget said, “Retail NI has long championed the need for City Deals for Belfast and Derry and we welcome the Chancellor’s green light of negotiations for a Belfast Deal.

"However we are disappointed and surprised that a City Deal for Derry was not included and will be raising this with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland”.

He also acknowledged the positive impact of a fuel duty freeze and the rise in the threshold for paying income tax to £11,850.

NI coffee firm expansion to create 40 new jobs

Credit: PA

A multi-million pound expansion by coffee chain Ground Espresso Bars will see over 40 new full and part time jobs created in Northern Ireland by the end of the year.

Three new stores are to open in Victoria Square, Belfast, the Laganbank Retail Park in Lisburn and the old Pump House in Portadown, the latter forming part of a £400,000 regeneration scheme.

The company hope to create further posts as part of a wider expansion with new sites planned for Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Scotland for 2018.

Ground currently employs over 250 staff across 20 stand-alone stores and concessions across the island of Ireland.


Unite asks DUP to press PM on Bombardier

The union Unite has said that DUP MPs must use their power at Westminister to put pressure on the Prime Minister to do everything she can to protect jobs at Bombardier.

The union made the call as yet more crippling US import tariffs have been imposed on Bombardier's C Series aircraft, in its trade row with Boeing.

The extra costs could threaten jobs in Belfast.

A ruling by the US Department of Commerce on Friday has quadrupled the cost of the aircraft being brought into America.

It has hit Bombardier with an 80% import tariff.

That's on top of another 220% tariff imposed less than two weeks ago.

Despite appeals from Theresa May to President Trump on the matter, Unite the Union says the Prime Minister isn't doing enough.

UTV's business reporter Vicki Hawthorne reports.

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