FINANCE Minister, Conor Murphy met businesses in Newry to discuss the Executive’s ongoing preparations for Budget 2022-2025.
Speaking at the event, organised by Newry Chamber of Commerce, the Finance Minister outlined the support his Department has provided to local businesses and set out the scale of the task facing the Executive with many competing demands on available finances.
Minister Murphy commented: “Throughout the pandemic I’ve been determined to ensure that support reached as many businesses as possible. My Department has provided almost £115 million to businesses in the Newry, Mourne and Down District Council area protecting jobs and supporting workers.
“Unfortunately, the Spending Review did not increase the Executive’s spending power by £1.6bn as indicated by the Treasury. Compared to this year’s budget it will see an increase in day to day spending of £450m next year, £670m the year after and £866m in year three. While any increase in cash is welcome, once inflation is taken into account this represents a flat budget over the period. Therefore meeting the significant pressures on public services will be challenging.
“Our health service is under immense pressure with waiting lists at an unprecedented level. Businesses are facing skill shortages and increased costs. While families are facing a cost of living crisis with rising food and energy costs, the increase in National Insurance and the disgraceful cut by Westminster to Universal Credit.”
Setting out the Executive’s priorities for the upcoming Budget, Minister Murphy added: “The Executive has agreed to prioritise health. There is also consensus that additional resources should be diverted to support economic development including skills, the transition to net zero and tackling inequality. Departments have been asked to submit proposals against these priorities. It will be challenging to deliver on all of these given the limited funding available to us. The task for the Executive now is to make the best possible use of the resources available.”
Newry Chamber President, Emma Mullen Marmion, “We were delighted to welcome Minister Conor Murphy and officials from the Department of Finance to Newry today. This provided an ideal opportunity for our members to hear directly from the Minister and ask relevant questions regarding the budget. Financial assistance provided to our members since the start of the covid pandemic has been invaluable. Whilst economic recovery has been positive for many of our members, targeted support is still required for the hardest hit sectors like retail and hospitality. Many businesses are experiencing skills and people shortages, we hope the upcoming Budget will provide assistance to help address this.”
Minister Murphy concluded: “Despite the significant pressures facing us, I am determined to work collectively with Ministerial colleagues to produce a multi-year budget that delivers for citizens and businesses here. I look forward to continuing engagement in the time ahead as we work towards a draft budget.”
The intention is to have a draft budget agreed before Christmas. There will then be a period of consultation before the budget is finalised by the end of March next year.