Northern Ireland

Budget 2018: Mixed political reaction to NI spending plans

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Media captionPhilip Hammond announces a budget boost for NI

There has been a mixed response to Chancellor Philip Hammond's budget from Northern Ireland's political parties.

The Democratic Unionist Party, which made a deal last year to keep the Conservative government in power, welcomed Mr Hammond's announcements.

The DUP has taken credit for much of the additional spending for Northern Ireland, saying it "secured £352m to transform the local economy".

But other parties were highly sceptical about the chancellor's spending plans.

Image caption Nigel Dodds said the DUP had secured extra spending through its deal with the Conservatives

Democratic Unionist Party MP Nigel Dodds:

"Today's announcement is further evidence of our commitment to deliver for all the people of Northern Ireland.

"Using our influence at Westminster we have be able to secure unprecedented levels of investment for Belfast.

"Under our Confidence and Supply Agreement we placed a city deal for Belfast at the heart of that arrangement.

"I am delighted that we have been able to secure a £350m contribution from the Treasury to the overall £1bn deal.

Image caption Máirtín Ó Muilleoir accused the Chancellor of engaging in "spin and smoke and mirrors"

Sinn Féin MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir:

"Today's budget announcement does not end austerity cuts to public services, as claimed by the British government.

"We needed a 3% increase in our resource budget just to stand still but that was not delivered in this budget. And there is no sign of the £1bn removed from our block grant over the past eight years being replaced.

"Once you strip away the spin, the fact is the Executive's budget for everyday spending will not even keep pace with inflation."

Image caption Claire Hanna dismissed some of Philip Hammond's announcement as "nonsense"

Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) MLA Claire Hanna:

"Whilst the chancellor has previously shown some glimmer of sense regarding the impact of Brexit on the economy, today he is misleading the House about the so-called 'positives' around the potential deal dividend from Brexit.

"Implying that not having to spend money allocated for a catastrophic no-deal Brexit as a 'boost' for the economy is the height of nonsense. All official reports from the Office for Budget Responsibility has made clear that any form of Brexit damages the economy."

Image caption Steve Aiken claimed the same money was being "constantly reannounced"

Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) MLA Steve Aiken:

"There was much to be encouraged about; a shrinking deficit, reduced borrowing and forecasted sustained real wage growth.

"Yet public services across Northern Ireland remain in crisis, and there was little in this budget to suggest that things will improve here anytime soon.

"Whilst there were major announcements of in-year funding for everything from pot-holes to winter hospital pressures, I suspect much of the additional funding that we will now receive will simply be used to fill in some of the many budgetary black holes that exist across several major Northern Ireland departments, not least the Departments of Health and Education.

"The £300m announced for school projects in Northern Ireland to supposedly promote shared and cross community education, was also a good example of the same money being constantly reannounced."

Image caption Stephen Farry said Brexit could knock the budget off course

Alliance MLA Stephen Farry:

"The Chancellor's figures are heavily qualified given the impact and economic uncertainty of Brexit. We cannot escape that large elephant in the room.

"Any form of Brexit will have severe implications for the UK economy, with a no deal Brexit magnifying them on a massive scale. It is likely the Chancellor's figures calculations will be badly knocked off course over the coming months.

"Further Barnett consequentials for Northern Ireland are always welcome, however there is a challenge to ensure those additional resources are spent strategically, making our public sector more sustainable and effective."

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