Budget stats & reaction from across the UK: Northern Ireland first minister Peter Robinson praised the Budget, but Scotland and Wales were less happy.
The devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all received increases in funding from the Budget yesterday, by £82 million, £50 million and £33 million respectively. The key measures benefitting each country are:
• 160,000 households will benefit as a result of the decision to make an additional payment worth £100 to those aged 80 or over – alongside this year’s winter fuel payment;
• The wind energy industry employs 8,000 people in Scotland, putting the country in a strong position to benefit from the £60 million announced for infrastructure development to meet the needs of offshore wind turbine manufacturers;
• The new Green Investment Bank is likely to prove a boost to an expanding renewable energy sector in Scotland; and
• Tax relief for the games industry is likely to be of particular benefit to Dundee, a hub for the gaming industry.
• The continuation of the business payment support services will continue to benefit businesses across Wales. So far, 11,600 arrangements have been made to provide businesses in Wales with more time to pay their taxes;
• 120,000 households will benefit from the additional £100 payments alongside this year’s winter fuel payments;
• 459,000 people in Wales are expected to benefit from the first Savings Gateway accounts from July, with people being offered 50p from the Government for every £1 they save;
• 14,100 people are expected to benefit from the extensions of the Support for Mortgage Interest programme; and
• Extra investment in infrastructure development looks set to benefit the 3,900 people in Wales employed in the wind energy industry.
• The extension of the business payment support services will build on the 7,210 agreements that have already provided much needed help to Northern Ireland firms during the election; and
• 279,000 people are expected to benefit from the new Savings Gateway to be introduced by July.
Reaction across the devolved territories was mixed.
SNP finance minister John Swinney said:
“The stimulus package demanded by the Scottish Government would have supported some 4,000 jobs in Scotland – the majority in our hard-pressed construction sector. That is the cost to Scotland of the Chancellor’s squandered opportunity…
“Fuel duty rises will hit motorists and hauliers hard, and be particularly painful for those in rural areas. An oil-rich nation like Scotland should be reaping the benefits from our offshore resources, not paying among the highest fuel duty in Europe.”
The fuel duty rise was also criticised by Plaid Cymru leader Elfyn Llwyd, who described it as “another example of an uncaring, out of touch government”. On tax thresholds, he added:
“By not increasing the threshold in line with inflation or pay, a higher amount of tax will be taken from people’s income. This is a stealth tax which will make little difference to the fat cats in the City of London, but will impact strongly upon low-paid families here in Wales.”
From Northern Ireland, however, there was praise for the Budget, first minister Peter Robinson saying:
“I am pleased … that in today’s budget, the Chancellor has … announced an increase in the Northern Ireland block grant, which goes on essential public services. £33million might not seem a huge amount of money in the grand scheme of things, but it is infinitely preferable to the slash-and-burn attitude to essential public services being adopted by some.
“We are working to reduce the size of the public sector in a phased way: replacing public sector jobs by attracting wealth-generating private sector posts. Such changes need to occur over time. Any rushed cuts could have left thousands of public sector workers in Northern Ireland unemployed. I also welcome the new policy on Stamp Duty as a tool to help first time buyers in Northern Ireland get their first home.”
Elsewhere in Northern Ireland, it emerged today that the Ulster Unionist Party’s sole MP, Lady Sylvia Hermon, has quit the party – leaving them without a Westminster representative. Lady Sylvia said she was leaving in protest at the UUP tie-up with David Cameron’s Conservative party. On Sunday, she had told the BBC’s Politics Show:
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“I’m not a Tory. I’m not going to stand under the Tory/Ulster Unionist banner – it’s as simple as that.”