Northern Ireland

DUP jobs cut plan unacceptable says Sinn Féin

DUP plans to cut public sector jobs to pay for a tax reduction for companies are "unacceptable", Sinn Féin has said.

A DUP paper submitted to the current inter-party talks suggests voluntary redundancies could save £400m a year.

Sinn Féin's John O'Dowd said the DUP was "perfectly entitled to have proposals".

However, he said discussions around corporation tax were "premature", as changes would take several years to take effect.

"First of all Westminster has to agree to transfer the powers, then we have to discuss how we would finance it and what level to set it at," he told BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan Show.

"The DUP are perfectly entitled to have proposals - that does not make them the only show in town and it is not part of the draft budget discussions."

'Balance the budget'

On Monday, Stormont ministers agreed on a draft budget presented by Finance Minister Simon Hamilton of the DUP. A public consultation has begun on the proposals.

The grant Northern Ireland gets from Westminster has been cut by 1.6%. However some departments will have to make savings of up to 11%.

In the DUP's talks submission, seen by the Nolan Show, the party says Northern Ireland's public sector could be brought "into line with the reductions that have already taken place in the rest of the UK".

This would help to balance the budget and allow room to reduce corporation tax in Northern Ireland, it says.

The number of public sector jobs in Northern Ireland has fallen in recent years - but the fall has been greater elsewhere in the UK.

The latest figures show that just over 212,000 people in Northern Ireland are public sector employees.

If 14,000 jobs were lost, that would equate to a cut of about 6.5%.

While the Republic of Ireland's 12.5% corporation tax rate has been a cornerstone of the economy for many years, the current rate paid by businesses in Northern Ireland is 21%.

Last month, DUP Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster told the assembly that a lower rate of corporation tax could produce "in the region of 50,000 jobs" over a relatively short period.

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