Cuts worse than feared - Peter Robinson

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First Minister Peter Robinson has said cuts to be implemented in Northern Ireland through the Spending Review are worse than he had anticipated.

Secretary of State Owen Paterson spoke to Mr Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness by phone in Washington on Wednesday.

Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness said he had delivered "bad news".

Mr McGuinness said it had been very unpleasant to hear the extent of cuts facing the Executive.

The Executive is due to meet on Friday to consider the full implications of the cuts.

Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness are in Washington for an investment conference.

More details of how Chancellor George Osborne's Spending Review will affect public spending in Northern Ireland are still not known.

The chancellor promised to be guided by "fairness" as he unveiled the biggest budget cuts in decades.

He stressed that funding counter-terrorism against the threat in NI was a government priority.

It is anticipated that NI could lose £2bn of its block grant when the impact of the proposals is established.

The Department of Finance at Stormont will work out how the cuts will breakdown later.

A £200m rescue package has been announced for the Prebyterian Mutual Society, made up of £25m in cash and a £175m loan.

'As expected'

Image caption,
George Osborne has been announcing details of planned cuts

Richard Ramsay, chief economist with the Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland, said the cuts were "largely as expected".

But he said there were surprises on the pension front.

He pointed to the rise in the retirement age to 66 by 2020, years earlier than had been envisaged.

For public sector workers, there is good news in that the defined benefits scheme has been retained, he said.

There will be staggered contributions - with those on higher salaries paying more.

Mr Ramsay said cuts on the welfare front are also largely as expected with caps on the level of benefits that householders can receive.

The impact of half a million job cuts over four years, means the loss of about 16 -17,000 jobs in NI, rising over six years to over 20,000 jobs.

Mr Ramsay said compulsory redundancies were inevitable, but it remained to be seen how many and where those cuts would take place.