SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood has welcomed a number of announcements made by British Chancellor Rishi Sunak today.
But he said that the overall package fails to deliver security for workers threatened by COVID-19 clusters and misses an opportunity to step up capital works.
The Foyle MP has urged the Executive to maximise additional allocations to the block grant by developing an economic recovery strategy that meets the needs of local people.
The chancellor has cut VAT from 20 to 5 per cent for the hospitality sector and an immediate rise in the threshold of stamp duty from £125,000 to £500,000.
He also announced an ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ scheme for the month of August to encourage people to eat out at participating restaurants and pubs with the Treasury picking up half of the food bill.
There was also a jobs retention bonus scheme unveiled to encourage employers to bring back workers from furlough and employers would receive a £1,000 bonus in return.
Said Mr Eastwood: “There are welcome announcements in today’s statement, particularly for tourism and hospitality sector businesses who have long campaigned for a targeted reduction in VAT.
“The SDLP has called for this reduction for a number of years which will come as a much needed boost for businesses that have suffered a severe reduction in trade throughout the crisis.
“The overall package announced today, however, is a missed opportunity.
“There is no significant increase in capital spending on projects that will immediately deliver new jobs and pump prime the local economy.
“There has also been no additional flexibilities granted to the devolved administrations to creatively manage new budget allocations in the interests of people here.
“The failure to extend wage and income subsidy schemes is also a mistake. With new Covid outbreaks in Germany, Spain and Britain forcing a return to lockdown in specific sectors and regions, workers here deserve the security of a guaranteed income should new restrictions be introduced.
“No one should be faced with a choice between going to work and catching the virus or staying at home and facing poverty.
“With a British Government focussed on talking about changes to Stamp Duty that will have a negligible impact on people here, our Executive needs to maximise the additional allocations to the block grant and bring forward an ambitious economic recovery strategy.
“Mimicking London schemes is no longer enough, it’s time to develop a bespoke strategy in conjunction with the business community that will deliver new jobs and protect existing workers,” added the Foyle MP.