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Cross-Sector Advisory Forum

Part of Ministerial Statement – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 12:30 pm on 20th April 2009.

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Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP 12:30 pm, 20th April 2009

It would take me quite a long time to do that in any detail. The House will be well aware that not only did the Executive put the economy at the centre of our priorities, but that since our first Budget, we have taken decisions to reduce household bills with regard to the amount of money that people must pay towards their regional rate. We froze the regional rate, not for one or two years, but for all three years of the Budget. We kept, in real terms — as inflation then was — the level of the business regional rate; we capped the industrial rate, and we were even prepared to take on Europe to ensure that.

In the wider economy, we brought forward proposals in the December monitoring round for a winter fuel payment to be made to people who are in greatest difficulty. Proposals were made for farming. We attempted to increase the amount of funding that is available for capital spend; last year, £1·4 billion was made available, and we expect that figure to increase during the current financial year. That gives an incentive to the construction industry, which, in my view, has been hit hardest by the economic downturn.

We took a decision to not proceed with water charging, which is something that would have hit everyone’s pockets, including those of the most vulnerable in our community. The Executive also proposed to reduce — and eventually phase out — prescription costs. Moreover, DETI introduced a range of proposals on debt advisory services, and so on, all of which were designed to help during the economic crisis.

I could outline a list three times that length — if I am encouraged to do so, I have it here. However, everybody knows that the Executive have been on the ball. That is not a party-political comment; all Ministers are striving, in their Departments, to make best use of available resources in order to assist during the economic downturn.