SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan has said that in all of George Osborne’s ‘smuggery’ today about who the Budget would be good for, he had little to say about billions of pounds worth of cuts or the pressures on public services and those who deliver them.
Mr Durkan said: “Under the gloss of apparent voter pocket giveaways the Chancellor has confirmed the starting point of £30 billion of cuts in the Spending Review in the next parliament that was locked in in the Budget Charter. This includes, on current estimates, a further £12 billion in welfare cuts.
“There was a lot of smug preening about cost of living respites which stem from lower world commodity prices rather than government policies.
“George Osborne also confirmed the Tory intent to keep reducing the headline rate of corporation tax for the UK. This would mean on the one hand that the North’s devolved corporation tax power might enjoy less competitive advantage within the UK. On the other hand we would have to ensure a lower relative cost in future years to the block grant for the Executive.
“In all of the Chancellor’s smuggery about who the Budget would be good for, he had little to say about public services and nothing for those who deliver them – even though they have been enduring the tightest of pay restraints while coping with added pressures.
“George Osborne is yet again claiming to be acting further against tax avoidance. As someone who is campaigning for a Tax Dodging Bill, I support such steps but recognise that they need to be part of a framework for action that will stand firmer and go further than Mr Osborne’s plans.
“In the midst of the ‘puff-oratory’ about a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ George Osborne also mentioned some existing City Deals – top-ups to some of these and others pending. Spin should not blind us to the fact that such City Deals have been on the basis of cross-party agreements in their localities, have been brokered with devolved authorities in Wales and Scotland (where two more are being lined up to follow Glasgow’s) and that they, understandably, differ in scope and scale.
“It is clear that cities, city regions and even non-city regions in England, Scotland and Wales are bending the City Deal concept for their own purposes and priorities, notwithstanding natural political disagreements. We should not deny ourselves that option (not least for Derry). Those who spurn and knee-jerk against a possible City Deal model seem to be the same people who said we shouldn’t look at George Osborne’s Enterprise Zones – only to end up scrambling a request to him days before last year’s Budget for an Enterprise Zone in Coleraine to take advantage from Project Kelvin.”