£1.6bn more - but still a tough Budget for people struggling to make ends meet
PUBLIC services in Northern Ireland are set to receive a £1.6 billion boost, the Chancellor has said.
But while Rishi Sunak hailed the largest block grants, in real terms, for the regions since the devolution settlements of 1998, politicians in the north have described it as a "tough budget for people struggling to make ends".
The government is to provide £15 billion a year to the Northern Ireland Executive, which Mr Sunak says equates to a 2.2 per cent rise in the Stormont budget.
Northern Ireland is also set to benefit from UK-wide support for people and businesses, green jobs and investment while targeted funding will support local projects.
These projects include an electric vehicle charging network and the redevelopment of a derelict Ministry of Defence site in Derry into an urban community farm.
Mr Sunak said the Budget aims to focus on health, public services, jobs and tackling climate change.
He said: "The UK Government is committed to levelling up opportunity and ensuring Northern Ireland feels the strength of our Union with a record £15 billion per year for the Executive - we are better together as one United Kingdom."
Secretary of State Brandon Lewis described the announcement as significant.
He said: "From £70 million to champion thousands of small and medium-sized enterprises to £49 million coming from the Levelling Up and Community Ownership funds, the opportunities for Northern Ireland are immense."
But SDLP leader Colum Eastwood claimed the Budget "ignored the cost of living crisis".
He said: "In the past few months alone we have seen spiralling fuel costs, Universal Credit has been cut by over £1,000 a year, inflation is on the rise and national insurance contributions are set to increase.
"The Chancellor had a choice today - he could have protected the most vulnerable in society from the cost of living crisis - but in typical Tory fashion he has chosen not to, instead presenting a Budget that does more to help those who are already thriving.
"Buried within today's Budget is a three-and-a-half billion tax break for banks, while ordinary people are left to suffer."
Alliance MP Stephen Farry criticised the Budget for "failing to produce a green deal".
He said: "Despite the spin by the Government, this is a tough Budget for people struggling to make ends meet while facing a spiralling cost of living.
"It also represents a serious missed opportunity for the UK to embark on a Green New Deal, combining action to address the climate emergency with a new approach to economic opportunity and social protection.
"The Government is not providing sufficient investment in a green transformation, skills and job creation. With the UK set to host Cop26 next week, the Chancellor couldn't even make one reference to the climate crisis."