Chancellor announces £1.6bn boost for NI in Budget

The Northern Ireland Executive will receive additional funding of £1.6bn per year, the chancellor has announced.

Rishi Sunak delivered his 2021 Budget at Westminster on Wednesday afternoon.

He says the announcement represents the largest annual funding settlements for NI, Wales and Scotland since devolution in 1998.

The chancellor has also announced that flights between airports in the UK regions will be subject to a new lower rate of Air Passenger Duty from April 2023.

Mr Sunak said: "The UK Government is committed to levelling up opportunity and ensuring Northern Ireland feels the strength of our Union with a record £15bn per year for the Executive - we are better together as one United Kingdom."

However the finance minister has disputed the figure announced by the chancellor.

Speaking on UTV Live, Conor Murphy said: "When you look behind the figures and get to our own figures it's actually much less than that, it's about £450m this year, and I think that does miss an opportunity to invest in public services."

The minister also said he has proposed to the Executive that health should be prioritised, "if that requires us to dip into other departments to give health what it needs".

Meanwhile the economy minister welcomed the 50% cut to air passenger duties on flights between the UK regions, but called for it to be removed altogether.

Gordon Lyons said: “While I welcome the Chancellor’s announcement today that he intends to reduce APD on UK routes from April 2023, as progress, it is extremely disappointing that the opportunity to remove APD altogether was not taken. I will continue to vigorously press home this message."

Northern Ireland is also set to benefit from UK-wide support for people and businesses, green jobs and investment while targeted funding will support local projects.

These projects include an electric vehicle charging network and the redevelopment of a derelict Ministry of Defence site in Londonderry into an urban community farm.

There will also be £1bn for farmers and land managers and £9.3m to support fisheries, the establishment of a new trade and investment hub in Belfast and the continuation of the £400m New Deal for NI investing in infrastructure and boosting economic growth.

Mr Sunak said the Budget aims to focus on health, public services, jobs and tackling climate change.

Secretary of State Brandon Lewis described the announcement as significant, adding: "From £70m to champion thousands of small and medium-sized enterprises to £49m coming from the Levelling Up and Community Ownership funds, the opportunities for NI are immense."

However SDLP leader Colum Eastwood claimed the Budget "ignored the cost of living crisis".

He said: "The chancellor had a choice today - he could have protected the most vulnerable in society from the cost of living crisis - but in typical Tory fashion he has chosen not to, instead presenting a Budget that does more to help those who are already thriving."

Alliance MP Stephen Farry criticised the Budget for "failing to produce a green deal".

He said: "The Government is not providing sufficient investment in a green transformation, skills and job creation. With the UK set to host Cop26 next week, the Chancellor couldn't even make one reference to the climate crisis."

Sammy Wilson MP said the DUP "will take time to analyse the budget and consider the detail".

He added: "Snap reactions on the day a budget is published rarely age well. The multi-year budget should help devolved finance ministers plan spending better."

UUP MLA Steve Aiken said: "We still have a long way to go to emerge fully from the Covid-19 pandemic but this budget, if properly used to support the needs of Northern Ireland, gives us a good chance."

Ann McGregor, chief executive of NI Chamber, said while the Budget contains some measures which will help economic recovery, an expected inflation rise of 4% means trading conditions are going to "remain very challenging".

She added: "In principle, we welcome additional funding for the region via the block grant and will await with interest, to see how businesses here will benefit from it.

"It is important that commitments to rates relief for hospitality and leisure businesses are extended to businesses in Northern Ireland."

Colin Neill from Hospitality Ulster welcomed the freeze on alcohol duties, and a "recognition" of difficulties faced by the sector, but said rising food and energy costs need to be addressed.

Glyn Roberts from Retail NI said: “The chancellor has made a very welcome announcement, giving independent retailers in England a 50% rates discount.

"It is absolutely vital that our finance minister ensures this fully applies to eligible small traders in Northern Ireland."

Matthew Hall, chief executive of Belfast City Airport, described the air passenger duty announcement as "a half-way house in terms of solving a problem".

He added: "Today's announcement by the Chancellor will not take effect until April 2023 and does little in the short term to alleviate a sector still decimated by Covid-19."

  • Bob Stronge from Advice NI gives his view on the Budget: