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19 December 2014

FSB NI calls for more focus on the economy in Budget response

Reference number: FSB NI PR 2014 51

THE Federation of Small Businesses in Northern Ireland has today submitted a response to the Department of Finance''s Draft Budget, highlighting the need for the budget to be adapted so that it "supports and sustains" small businesses.

Northern Ireland''s largest business organisation welcomed that the draft budget is predicated on carrying forward the number one priority of growing a sustainable economy.  However, the FSB makes clear in its response to DFP that more funding must be allocated to what are the two most economically important Departments; DEL and DETI, to ensure that it supports and sustains small businesses through skills and job creation.

Responding to the consultation, FSB NI Policy Chair Wilfred Mitchell OBE reiterated concerns raised during a discussion with Finance Minister Simon Hamilton MLA at the FSB offices in Belfast, last month.

‘''While the FSB are aware of the financial difficulties facing the Stormont Executive at this time and we recognise the positive recommendations that have been made, such as the continuation of the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme and the potential of a Northern Ireland Investment Fund, we believe the draft Budget for 2015/16 could be significantly improved.''

‘''The 10.8% reduction being applied to the Employment and Learning budget will have a savage effect on Further and Higher Education provision. In order to ensure that we continue to provide skills to match the needs of the economy, this must be addressed in the final Budget.''

Mr Mitchell continued:  ‘‘DETI''s budget is facing a 15.1% cut to its baseline with additional allocations solely covering existing commitments. Under the draft settlement Invest NI will only have around £6 million to spend on new business in-year. This will have a hugely negative impact on the support currently offered to small businesses with job creation, Research & Development, skills support, export assistance and marketing budgets all likely to suffer as a result.''

‘''The FSB believes that the Barnett Consequentials from the Autumn Statement (£67 million Resource DEL) should be prioritised towards DETI and DEL to deal with the difficulties within Further Education, Higher Education and Invest NI. Furthermore, it is also clear that only through agreement on this budget and a wider demonstration that Executive finances are on a secure footing, including progress on unresolved welfare reform proposals, can we secure the devolution of Corporation Tax. The stakes could therefore not be higher.''