The Westminster Government is charged with managing the UK Budget.
It inherited a very difficult economic situation in which even the former Labour Treasury Secretary admitted, ‘sorry there’s no money left.’
Like virtually every Western Government, the UK Government was faced with a severe debt problem which has entailed spending cuts. These were not unique to the UK and have been a major feature of political and economic life in the Republic of Ireland and every European economy.
Both Labour and the Conservatives have indicated that further cuts are inevitable no matter who wins the forthcoming Westminster election.
The primary aim would be to ensure Government raises enough via taxation to pay for public spending. In UK terms this is not just the welfare state – health and education etc - but also the block grants for Northern Ireland and Scotland, Wales in addition to the English Regions and Defence, plus Overseas aid.
Money has to be raised via taxation or borrowed on the international money markets. There is no free pile of cash sitting somewhere that we can just gain access to and send to Northern Ireland.
I would strive to ensure a fair tax and spending system, whereby individuals and companies paid their fair share of tax and the revenue raised was allocated to where it could have the most impact. We want to close corporation tax loopholes with zero tolerance on tax evasion.
The Ulster Unionist Party wants Northern Ireland to once again establish itself as a major economic powerhouse.
Giving Stormont the power to vary the rate of Corporation Tax in Northern Ireland was an Ulster Unionist idea. We support a rate of 12.5% which matches the current rate in the Republic of Ireland, to be introduces at the earliest possible date, April 1, 2017.
We support measures to increase the personal allowance to £12,500 by 2020.
We oppose reintroducing the 50 per cent top rate of income tax for people earning over £150,000 pa as previous experience shows an increased rate could actually lead to a reduced total tax take.
The current 20 per cent value added tax rate is crippling two of our key industrial sectors: Construction and Tourism. We will seek a concessionary 5 per cent VAT rate being applied to the repair, maintenance and improvement of existing dwellings in Northern Ireland; and seek a concessionary 9 per cent VAT rate being applied to the hospitality sector, to negate the marketing disadvantage with the Republic of Ireland.
In an ideal world there are many areas in which I would like to see spending increased but I am conscious that in order to increase spending in one area, we will either need to increase taxes or pay for it via transferring money in from another area.
I would like to increase the state pension to alleviate the hardship faced by so many of our senior citizens. I would also like to see increased funding for the Health Service and to improve our roads infrastructure. I would also like to see major efforts to tackle educational under-achievement and reduce deprivation.
However, we do not live in the ideal world and instead we have to be realistic and not make promises we cannot keep. Some politicians and political parties make a living out of being populist and promising things which they know they cannot deliver.
I believe it is better to be honest with people and to make promises which can actually be delivered.