Muted Local 'Welcome' For Pre-Budget

While Stormont has officially welcomed Chancellor Alastair Darling's pre-Budget report yesterday - with Northern Ireland firms said to be getting a fillip of up to £86.5 million - others are less positive.

On one hand, NI Finance Minister Nigel Dodds (pictured) welcomed the Chancellor's plans to stimulate economic growth saying that "in terms of capital expenditure we have the opportunity to accelerate up to £86.5 million in the local economy", while on the other, hauliers are branding the changes as "disgraceful".

They are outraged and say they are looking at a bleak Christmas following the statement.

The local Freight Transport Association has attacked Alistair Darling's bid to increase fuel duty to offset his economy-stimulating cuts in VAT.

FTA Northern Ireland spokesperson Tom Wilson told the BBC last night that Mr Darling's decision was "disgraceful".

"By offsetting the VAT reduction with an increase in fuel duty, he has added thousands to the transport bills.

"Not only does this hurt businesses directly, it also hurts the consumer, who will end up paying more to cover transport costs of items such as food, clothing and white goods," he said, insisting that "the Chancellor is giving with one hand and taking away with the other".
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But, the official reaction is extremely positive with Mr Dodds saying the reduction in VAT was particularly welcome: "This measure provides the flexibility we need to respond to the needs of local firms experiencing difficulties," he insisted.

"In addition, the package of measures targeted at supporting small business will be of benefit to 132,000 firms in Northern Ireland," he said.

"The Chancellor faced a difficult task in balancing the need to kick start the economy against the recognition that the additional borrowing will need to be paid back in the future."

He said he also welcomed Mr Darling's decision to bring forward to January the increases in child benefit and the basic state pension.

"This will benefit over 300,000 young families in Northern Ireland and offer additional help to older people just when they need it most."

An additional, and perhaps unexpected spin-off is the news that the cutting of VAT from 17.5% to 15% will have a "massive impact" on the level of cross-border shopping.

See: North' Is The Place To 'Spend' Christmas

See: Shadow Chancellor Criticises 'Tax Bombshell Budget'


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