Labour's Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, Vernon Coaker MP, responding to today's budget, said:
"The Tory tax cut for the rich shows that they have the wrong priorities. Whilst hundreds of thousands of people in Northern Ireland are suffering in these very difficult economic times, the Tories want to give 14,000 millionaires tax breaks of over £40,000 and the 300,000 richest people in the country an extra £10,000. I think that is deeply unfair and that the cut in the 50% tax rate will be viewed with incredulity by people in Northern Ireland
“But whilst cutting tax for the richest, the Chancellor's decision to slap VAT on more regular purchases is another stealth tax on middle and lower income families in Northern Ireland. The Office for Budget Responsibility has confirmed that this will drive up inflation and hit consumption. The Tories increase in VAT to 20% in 2011 is already costing families with children in Northern Ireland an average of £450 a year - and this will only add to that figure.
“The Tories say they can afford to give a tax cut for people earning over £150,000, but can’t afford to cut fuel duty for hard-pressed families. Northern Ireland's motorists - already facing record petrol prices - are now facing a 3p rise in fuel duty in August. Labour has called for a temporary cut in VAT as part of our five point plan for jobs and growth, to ease the squeeze on families and get our stalled economy moving again. This which would take 3p off the price of a litre of petrol and jump-start our stalled economy.
"There will also be much concern in Northern Ireland about regional pay. Whilst there are cases where regional variation makes sense, where we introduced this in government – for example with nurses and teachers in London – but this was done on a negotiated basis. Labour opposes any moves to undermine the pay review bodies by shifting wholesale to regional and local bargaining in the public sector.
Pay review bodies nationally are a better way of delivering flexibility while keeping a lid on costs. George Osborne is going for a free-for-all - pitching hospital against hospital - in a way which is unfair and which could potentially cost more in the long run.
“Finally, the Tories £3 billion ‘Granny Tax’ raid on pensioners over the next four years. The freeze in the personal allowance for pensioners will see 4.4 million pensioners across the UK who pay income tax, including many in Northern Ireland, losing an average of £83 per year next April. And people turning 65 next year will lose up to £322.
"So this budget is bad news for Northern Ireland. I've said before that the Secretary of State needs to be a voice for Northern Ireland in Westminster, not a cheerleader in Northern Ireland for the Tory-led government.
"Labour will continue to stand up and speak up for people in Northern Ireland - families, pensioners and businesses - and help ensure that their views are heard in Westminster."