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Tough times require tough choices – Wilson

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson, has spoken of the tough choices facing the public sector as it deals with a more constrained financial environment.

Speaking at the Northern Ireland Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy annual conference in Newcastle, the Minister said: “The next four years, and perhaps beyond, are going to be one of the most difficult periods for planning public expenditure in living memory. The expenditure cuts we face are a certainty. The continuous growth in public expenditure that we have enjoyed is over; we are in a different world now.

“The magnitude of the expected cuts and the tough choices that have to be made mean we have to plan carefully and do it now. Pain is inevitable, but however difficult it is going to be we have to approach it in a constructive way. Wringing our hands or whinging about it won’t take us anywhere, we have to get on and deal with it. This is what people expect of us; this is what devolution is about.

“When making these tough decisions, I am firmly of the view that growing our economy must be the number one priority if we are to improve living standards locally. Our future expenditure allocations must reflect this priority."

The Minister went on to speak about the possibility of a change in the rate of Corporation Tax in Northern Ireland and said: “I welcome the fact that the coalition Government has agreed to publish a paper that will examine the potential mechanisms for changing the Corporation Tax rate in Northern Ireland, and will also consider enterprise zones and other options for possible reform including possible reform of tax relief.

“There are significant expectations in Northern Ireland around this report. We need to be realistic however. A reduced rate of Corporation Tax in Northern Ireland would not in itself be a silver bullet. Nothing is that easy. It could also be expensive."

In conclusion, the Minister warned of the importance of preparing for the impending cuts and said: “We cannot just wait the outcome of the spending review and then respond to give people the decisions they need. The onus is on me as Finance Minister to develop a budget that charts the proper way forward. I will do this and I will continue to work with all Executive Ministers to seek to agree our priorities and to seek out where financial savings can be made.”

Notes to editors:

  1. The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) is the professional body for people in public finance. It has 14,000 members who work throughout the public services, in national audit agencies, in major accountancy firms, and in other bodies where public money needs to be effectively and efficiently managed. It is the world’s only professional accountancy body to specialise in public services.
  2. The theme of this year’s annual CIPFA Northern Ireland Conference was ‘Public services taking the lead’.
  3. Media enquiries only to DFP Communications Office on 028 9052 7374 or 028 9052 27375. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned. Photos are available upon request by contacting the DFP Communications Office on 028 9052 7378.