Magherafelt and Cookstown facing £32m welfare reform hit

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COOKSTOWN and Magherafelt Council areas will lose an estimated £32m each year from their economies if the proposed reforms to welfare go-ahead, a new report has claimed.

The shocking estimates of drop income for local people if the reforms take place are contained in research commissioned by the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action’s Centre for Economic Empowerment.

‘The Impact of Welfare Reform on Northern Ireland’, a report carried out by researchers at Sheffield Hallam University found that Cookstown and Magherafelt, could expect a loss of £680 and £550 respectively per adult of working age.

The report estimates that the raft of reforms will take £750m a year out of the Northern Ireland economy, equivalent to £650 a year for every adult of working age.

The financial losses are expected to come from reforms to incapacity benefits, changes of tax credits, working age benefit, housing benefit and disability living allowance.

Seamus McAleavey, Chief Executive of the NICVC , who commissioned the report, said: “The facts in this report make for stark reading for everyone in Northern Ireland – whether they receive benefits or not.

“Not only will Northern Ireland fair much worse than anywhere else as a result of welfare reform but we will also be even pushed further down the ladder when it comes to levels of prosperity across the UK.

“At a time when many commentators are beginning to report that the economy is turning a corner, the impact of the removal of £750m spending power has the potential to undo any positive developments.

“We are calling on government to urgently convene a high level group of government, business, local traders and the voluntary and community sector to work together to develop a robust series of actions to protect the delicate process of economic recovery in Northern Ireland.”

Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said,

“The loss of £750 million to our local economy means that already struggling local retailers will lose a very considerable amount of spending. We already have 1 in 4 shops vacant, which is twice the National average and I fear losing £750 million from the economy will only increase this.”-