Clegg concedes NI cuts vulnerability

Northern Ireland's public sector reliance makes it especially vulnerable to cuts
Northern Ireland's public sector reliance makes it especially vulnerable to cuts

By Alex Stevenson

Nick Clegg acknowledged Northern Ireland's reliance on public sector jobs makes it especially vulnerable to spending cuts in a speech in the province last night.

The deputy prime minister said the coalition government would not "duck the difficult decisions" by avoiding taking "decisive action to pay down the UK's towering budget deficit".

His firm statement appeared to have been a response to a joint appeal by the first ministers of Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland yesterday against reductions in the budgets to the devolved administrations yesterday.


"Unlike previous governments, we do understand that not all areas are the same," MR Clegg told an audience at the north-south parliamentary conference in Newcastle, Northern Ireland.

"Some are more vulnerable than others. So we recognise anxieties here in Northern Ireland, concerns which derive particularly from the local economy's longstanding overreliance on the public sector."

The deputy prime minister said the coalition wanted a private sector-led recovery and outlined ways in which London could help.

Plans to turn Northern Ireland into an 'enterprise zone' and change the corporation tax rate were under consideration, he said.

Mr Clegg concluded: "We are determined to get the balance right, respecting Northern Ireland's political arrangements, standing up for its security, supporting its prosperity.

"If history teaches us anything it is that we cannot underestimate the importance of our personal relationships, of our openness towards each other and our trust in one another."

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