Business

We've all gone a little giddy over 2p . . .

Black Wednesday fuel offers at one west Belfast forecourt caused traffic disruption. No changes to fuel duty were mentioned in the autumn statement, with the 5p per litre cut being retained for 12 months. UK duty remains 52.95p per litre for petrol and diesel
Black Wednesday fuel offers at one west Belfast forecourt caused traffic disruption. No changes to fuel duty were mentioned in the autumn statement, with the 5p per litre cut being retained for 12 months. UK duty remains 52.95p per litre for petrol a Black Wednesday fuel offers at one west Belfast forecourt caused traffic disruption. No changes to fuel duty were mentioned in the autumn statement, with the 5p per litre cut being retained for 12 months. UK duty remains 52.95p per litre for petrol and diesel

IN better days, any chunk of "new money" bestowed on Northern Ireland by the chancellor of the day would go into the Stormont finance department's bank account and there'd be the inevitable bun-fight from health, education, infrastructure and other ministers for a slice of the fresh pie.

But in the tumbleweed political era here, the so-called Barnett consequential - in this case £185 million - goes into a gargantuan black debt hole and put towards the Stormont overspend (it won't even touch the sides of the £297 million currently owed).

In other words, public services won't get a penny. Worse still, with funding for day-to-day spending at Stormont departments being frozen in cash terms next year at £13.8 billion, effectively that's a real term cut.

So even if our MLAs were sitting on their party benches instead of the naughty step, they'd have nothing to divvy-up anyway.

There were a raft of initiatives in Jeremy Hunt's autumn statement around reduced rates for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses, which will benefit businesses elsewhere in the UK. But as rating is a devolved matter, they won't automatically kick in here.

What will apply, and which the chancellor claimed was the “biggest ever boost for business investment in modern times”, is full expensing (FE).

Announced as a temporary measure in the spring budget, FE allows costs for items such as computers, tools and machinery to be claimed back in full in the year they occur.

The permanent extension would mean for every million pounds invested, businesses would receive £250,000 off their tax bill in the same year.

There were whoops of joy as the chancellor maintained the freeze on fuel duty for the 13th year in succession. The whoops were extra loud for those enjoying Black Wednesday petrol and diesel offers (and causing gridlock) at one west Belfast forecourt during the budget speech.

But the threat of higher pump prices still hangs over motorists' heads, because notably the statement did not cancel the plan to raise duty by 6p next April.

Which brings us to autumn statement's headline personal win, and one which will benefit every one of the 700,000-plus people currently in work in Northern Ireland.

A 2p cut in the main national insurance rate, fast-tracked to apply to pay packets from January, will save someone earning £35,000 more than £450 a year.

Mr Hunt said high employment taxes “disincentivise the hard work we should be encouraging” as he cut the rate on earnings between £12,570 and £50,270 from 12% to 10%.

“If we want people to get up early in the morning, if we want people to work nights, if we want an economy where people go the extra mile and work hard, then we need to recognise that their hard work benefits all of us,” he said.

So in a nutshell, we've all gone a little giddy over 2p . . .