NI enterprise zone announced in Budget

Published Wednesday, 19 March 2014
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Chancellor George Osborne has announced that Northern Ireland is to get its first enterprise zone during his Budget statement on Wednesday.

NI enterprise zone announced in Budget
Chancellor George Osborne, holding the budget outside No 11 Downing Street. (© Getty)

The pilot enterprise zone will be based at a site adjacent to the University of Ulster campus in Coleraine, where 5NINES, a leading global data centre development and consulting firm, have already announced plans for a £20m investment that will create around 15 jobs.

Enterprise zones formed part of the 'Building a Prosperous and United Community' document, agreed with Prime Minister David Cameron last June.

The scheme will support businesses to invest and expand through rates relief and access to broadband infrastructure.

Firms could avail of enhanced capital allowances (ECAs) for plant and machinery investment, which was increased by 100% until March 2020.

The Annual Investment Allowance is also being doubled to £500k until the end of 2015.

Other measures which could help NI's economy include start-up aid added to the scope of the regional air connectivity fund to encourage airlines to start flying new routes from regional airports.

In Northern Ireland businesses have been increasingly positive about their prospects and today's announcements by the Chancellor will help them to invest to secure a stronger economy for the future.

NI Secretary of State Theresa Villiers

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster added: "Over many years the Executive has shown the priority that we attach to having a world class telecommunications infrastructure.

"This opportunity allows us to further exploit the extensive superfast fibre-optic broadband network available across Northern Ireland and the direct international connectivity that Project Kelvin provides to North America and continental Europe."

NIIRTA Chief Executive Glyn Roberts, Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) also welcomed the enterprise zone, but said he wanted the scheme to include the whole of the north-west.

"Since 2010, NIIRTA has strongly lobbied successive Secretaries of State of Northern Ireland and Finance Ministers for the establishment of targeted and focused Enterprise Zones and look forward to working with the Government and NI Executive on its implementation," he said.

The Northern Ireland Executive will also benefit from Barnett consequentials bringing the total amount of additional spending power granted to the Executive since the 2010 Spending Review to over £1bn.

NI Finance Minister Simon Hamilton welcomed the UK Budget allocation of £21.2m to the Northern Ireland public expenditure Budget over the next two years, including £10.2m to be used for capital investment.

But he re-iterated his stance that wider economic growth would not translate into increased budgets for the public sector.

The Chancellor has made it clear that the UK Government must continue to curb its debt and that any fiscal gains from higher economic growth will be used to reduce our national deficit.

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton

Mr Hamilton added: "Unfortunately that means that the public sector is facing a sustained period of budget constraint.

"My view is that this also provides an opportunity to begin a process of reform so that we actually improve services despite reducing budgets. The task will not be easy but it is one we must face up to and provide solutions for."

On Wednesday, Mr Osborne unveiled radical reforms to tax rules on retirement pots and new-style flexible ISAs where people can save up to £15k tax-free.

Mr Osborne said the UK GDP would grow by a better than forecast 2.7% this year, with similar growth in following years making the economy £16bn larger than predicted and meaning the government would be back in surplus by 2018-19.

Other Budget 2014 measures

  • personal income tax allowance increased to £10,500 from next year.
  • tax restrictions on pensioners' access to pensions removed, tax on cash removed on retirement cut from 55% to 20%.
  • ten pence starting rate of tax on income from savings abolished.
  • a penny taken off a pint of beer, duty on scotch whisky and cider unchanged.
  • tobacco duty rises by 2% above inflation.
  • the "carbon floor" energy price frozen, meaning medium-saved businesses will save £50,000 and consumers £15 a year.
  • planned fuel duty rise for September scrapped.
  • bingo duty halved to 10%, but fixed-odds betting machines increased by 25%.

The Chancellor aimed to share benefits of the economic recovery with pensioners and savers in his "budget for a resilient economy".

"The message from this Budget is - you have earned it, you have saved it; and this government is on your side, whether you're on a low or middle income, whether you're saving for your home, for your family or for your retirement," he told the house of Commons.

Commenting on alcohol duty, Colin Neill, chief executive of Pubs of Ulster, said: "Pubs of Ulster has worked hard to demonstrate that draft beer is unique to the licensed trade and is something which keeps people coming to the pub and away from more harmful drinking that goes on at home.

"Draft beer has a lower alcohol content and the pub provides a regulated environment in which it can be consumed safely.

"We also welcome the freeze on the duty on scotch whisky, spirits and ordinary cider. The Government today has demonstrated a willingness to support businesses and help pubs remain afloat by keeping duty down and we welcome that."

However, public service union NIPSA has said there is little offered in the budget for its members and the wider society in Northern Ireland.

Brian Campfield, General Secretary stated: "Today's announcement regarding Northern Ireland's first Enterprise Zone in the Coleraine area appears to try and appease the workers in DVA - this does not wash with over 300 NIPSA members who are devastated by the loss of these jobs.

"Certainly experience from the 24 enterprise zones already created across the UK does not demonstrate that there will be many jobs resulting."

© UTV News
Comments Comments
3 Comments
John in England wrote (248 days ago):
Good for a couple of call centres. All the Big business go to Dublin.
culchy in the stix wrote (248 days ago):
So 300 job losses to be compensated for by the creation of up to 15 new ones? But a penny off a pint? Now there's cause for celebration - oh wait, no it's not, the price of a pint is already ridiculous and, according to the Pubs of Ulster spokesperson, weaker than a tin of the stuff you can buy by the dozen for the price of 3 pints. And the only reason they keep upping the price of tobacco is to counter-balance the lost revenue from the smoking ban and people who quit. Addiction is a nice little earner for the government.
Claire in Belfast wrote (249 days ago):
I personally would have preferred a rise in my wages! Prices are rising everywhere, yet my wages don't rise!! I'm just about managing to get by on what I earn each month, and have no savings at all because I just can't afford it! Less of the new building of Uni Campus' and new housing etc. Use the houses we already have, there's plenty of houses across the island sitting empty, cut out the DLA and double housing that "single parents" claim, and help those of us who actually work for a living and are struggling to keep a roof over our heads!
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