Live blog: Budget 2017
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Who has read it?
LET’S be honest – apart from a few anoraks, very few people have read the Good Friday Agreement in its entirety.
However, one would expect that a senior government minister would have known each and every line. Not so the Immigration Minister, Caroline Nokes, who confessed that she hadn’t read all of it in front of Westminster’s Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.
And, she’s never had the joy of visiting the Irish border.
As to the anomalies of applying for UK citizenship Ms Nokes was at best flummoxed. It was almost nostalgic of Stormont committees when she repeated that officials would know and she’ll get back to the members.
Given the high priority given to migration perhaps the minister was to be forgiven for not noticing the daily migration across the invisible border we have here on the island of Ireland.
Certainly, Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, was more sure of the border when he brought his personality cult to Queen’s University, Belfast. He was pretty sure that he wouldn’t “advocate” for a border poll but wanted a soft border post-Brexit.
He did call for the parties to get down to restoring devolution, as did several peers – including Baroness Smith of Basildon, who suggested locking them in a room until a deal is done.
However laudable the peer’s intentions may have been, she must face facts. Such an approach could still take months, and the quantities of tea and biscuits our politicians would consume in such circumstances simply wouldn’t be sustainable within our current budgetary constraints.
Meanwhile it appears that the Trump administration is intent on washing its hands of NI (Who can blame them? – Ed). US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has said that he had not considered requests by members of Congress to appoint a special envoy to assist in the talks here – if and when they happen.
After all, it is easier to sort out America’s relationship with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un than sort out the rows between the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin.
And, with the mercury rising gradually one can be sure that the two parties would rather be out enjoying ‘canvassing’ than staying indoors having talks– even if by canvassing they mean enjoying a barbecue.
Therein lies the problem. The longer they avoid talks the harder it will be to start again. They could convene a round of talks on the north coast chaired by Mr Whippy.
He can refuse to serve any pokes of 99s until they all agree to play nice and shake hands.
If you can think of any other way, answers on the back of an envelope to NI secretary of state, Karen Bradley, as she seems to have no other ideas on how to move forward.
And that’s a wrap! A £120m boost for Northern Ireland, with some interesting tax announcements.
Reduced Corporation Tax has been our financial centrepiece for a number of years – how will we be affected by a cut in the GB rate?
Next year’s growth forecasts have increased, but can we really make economic predictions with any accuracy when so much is still unknown about Brexit?
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The Chancellor says the UK’s “greatest achievements are ahead of us” as he commends the 2017 Budget to the House of Commons.
The Chancellor says the Apprenticeship Levy will support 3 million more apprentices by 2020. The Levy was criticised as an unnecessary tax by the last NI Executive. The key question locally is whether levy funds raised in Northern Ireland will be made available to businesses for training and skills.
The Chancellor confirms that the announcements made in the 2017 Budget will deliver almost £120m for the (“incoming”) Northern Ireland Executive.
£300m allocated to support science research, including £270m for robotics and money for 1,000 PhD places for STEM students.
The Chancellor announces a £5m fund to help people back into employment after a career break. The policy is primarily aimed at parents.
The personal tax allowance will increase from £11,500 to £12,500 by the end of the current Parliament. The higher tax rate threshold will also increase to £50,000.
The National Living Wage will increase to £7.50 in April 2017 as expected.
There will be a new minimum excise duty on cigarettes based on a pack price of £7.35. Elsewhere, there will be no changes to previously planned upratings of duties on alcohol and tobacco.
By 2019, (Class 4) National Insurance Contribution payments for self-employed people will increase from 9% to 11%.
New measures to collect tax to be introduced, including tougher penalties for professionals selling tax avoidance schemes that are later found unlawful. Expected to raise over £800m by 2020/2021.
Chancellor announces £1,000 rates discount for 90% of pubs in England.
Rates reform was top of the DoF agenda in Northern Ireland before the institutions were dissolved. The key question is, if one sector receives rates relief, where is the money made up?
From April 2017, Corporation Tax in GB will fall to 19%. From 2020, it will fall to 17%. This makes Northern Ireland’s planned cut more affordable but also less worthwhile.
- 2018/19 – 1.6%
- 2019/20 – 1.7%
- 2020/2021 – 1.9%
- 2021/2022 – 2%
The Office for Budget Responsibility has upgraded its growth forecast for next year from 1.4 to 2%.
The Chancellor says the UK economy has “confounded the commentators” with record growth.
Final question of PMQs. Budget statement to follow.
Prime Minister’s Questions currently underway in the Commons. The Chancellor is expected to deliver his Budget statement at around 12.30PM.
As well as our live coverage, we’ll also publish a full summary of the 2017 Budget, with analysis of its impact on Northern Ireland. To get this delivered straight to your inbox, fill in the sign-up sheet!
We love a good queue in the UK!
A lot of the announcements in today’s Budget will relate to devolved policy areas, so they won’t apply directly to Northern Ireland. However, it all matters in financial terms because of the Barnett Formula.
The Barnett Formula allocates extra funding (or cuts) from Westminster to the budgets of the devolved jurisdictions. When the UK Government increases or cuts funding for its Departments, the Formula is used to decide how much the devolved governments will get. Importantly, the Formula works according to the size of each jurisdiction, and the money allocated isn’t ringfenced in anyway.
So, when the Chancellor announces additional funding for social care in England later today, there will be no direct impact on the social care budget in Northern Ireland. However, the Executive will receive additional money as a result, which can then be spent on whatever it sees fits.
As the Chancellor reminds us, this will be the last ‘Spring Budget’. The financial set piece will take place in autumn from now on.
There is a lot of media speculation about what the Chancellor will include in his first spring Budget, with potential implications for Northern Ireland. Here’s a few that grabbed our attention:
- The BBC is expecting a boost for science, with funding for electric vehicles, robotics and artificial intelligence.
- The Beeb has also tipped an increase in tobacco and some alcohol duties.
- According to The Telegraph, the Chancellor will announce tax rises to help fund extra spending on social care and business rates in England.
- It is being widely report that a new expert panel will be set up to consider how the tax system can be used to help the North Sea oil and gas sector.
Good morning, folks! We’ve got keyboards at the ready for the 2017 Budget. It promises to be an interesting one, not least in the context of Brexit. Preview to follow.