‘Budget ignores the needs of those still suffering’ – Ritchie

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Wednesday, March 19th, 2014
SDLP MP for South Down has criticised the UK government’s budget as ignoring the needs of those still suffering from the economic crisis. Speaking from the House of Commons this afternoon Ritchie stated, “This budget will do very little to help people in Northern Ireland who are facing rising food bills, skyrocketing energy costs and stagnant wages. “The UK Chancellor made much of recent employment figures, but ignored that so many of these jobs are in temporary roles or through zero-hour contracts. These jobs are unstable and do not reflect a proper recovery but the consolidation of a low wage economy. “Unemployment remains stubbornly stuck at 7.4%, which is above the UK average. This is to say nothing of the tragedy of joblessness faced by our young people,” she continued. “Youth unemployment stands at over 20,000 in Northern Ireland. About 1 in 4 of our young people cannot find a job which will have a devastating impact on their lives in the coming years and will cost the Northern Ireland economy hundreds of millions of pounds.” Addressing the proposed welfare cap Ritchie responded, “The proposed welfare cap represents another pernicious attack on the vulnerable and we will be opposing this.” Speaking on measures for the tourism industry Ritchie stated, “While there was welcome news with the freeze for fuel duty, I have called for measures to aid the tourism industry, so vital to our economy, but yet again the Chancellor has not considered the case for lowering the rate of VAT for tourism products, as is the case in almost every other EU member state. “We see Ireland as an all island tourist market, however businesses in the north are faced with a 20% rate of VAT while the Irish government have taken the sensible step to lower their rate to 9% for tourist products. The SDLP MP continued, “It is a regrettable situation that the only border for tourists moving between the South and the North of Ireland is an economic one brought about by the decisions of the UK Treasury. “Moreover the industry would have benefited from proper reform of Airport Passenger Duty rather than the very limited proposals for certain long haul flights. Our industry is hit especially hard by the UK’s record level of duty hitting our own consumers and travellers wishing to visit Northern Ireland.” Addressing the changes to savings and pension reforms Ritchie stated, “The changes to the saving regime, through higher ISA caps, and the radical reforms of pensions by removing annuities are to be welcomed in introducing greater flexibility for people who have worked hard to build up savings. “However, we must not forget the large number of people who have not been able to afford to save and for whom these measures will be largely irrelevant. It is not due to lack of incentives that these people do not save but the financial constraints of extortionate bills and stagnant wages,” she added.
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