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Day of Reckoning Beckons for Northern Ireland says Alliance

April 22, 2009 2:00 PM

Alliance Party Finance Spokesperson, Stephen Farry MLA, has responded to today's Budget Statement from the Chancellor of Exchequer, Alistair Darling, by stressing the short-term opportunities opened for the Northern Ireland Executive to invest in recovery, but warned that a day of reckoning is approaching for Northern Ireland's finances and stressed the imperative of the devolved Executive getting its house in order.

Stephen Farry MLA stated: "This Budget provides a sobering measure of the depth of the current economic crisis and the austerity that will have to be incurred over years to come in putting things right today.

"Some of the measures announced today, on for example taxation and benefits, will apply to the United Kingdom as a whole. Of these, some make sense, but others do not. Alliance is not convinced of the merits of the VAT cut. It amounts to a loss of £8bn, with little benefit in boosting investment for recovery. Northern Ireland's share of this is around £200m.

"Some of the spending commitments will be regionalised. We will be entitled to a proportionate share from new financial commitments to training and employment measures and financial support for renewable technologies. Northern Ireland will therefore get a short-term financial boost from Barnett consequentials, in the range of £30m to £50m. But the challenge now falls to our devolved Executive not to squander the opportunity, but to invest these resources in improving our society

"I welcome the commitment from the Chancellor to developing the Green Economy. The UK as a whole has fallen behind many other countries around the world, and is now playing catch-up. Northern Ireland is even further behind. The Stormont Executive must produce our own 'Green New Deal' for Northern Ireland.

"In the longer-term, Northern Ireland risks taking its share of the announced £15bn 'efficiency savings'. Under the Barnett Formula, cuts of this scale would take £450m out of our local budgets over the next few years. It remains to be seen if our Ministers can negotiate an exemption for Northern Ireland from this. The cheap populism rather than prudence of the Executive will not help in this regard.

"It is clear that a day of reckoning is approaching for Northern Ireland on public expenditure. It's vital that our Executive takes a responsible approach to its own finances. There is an imperative to address the distortions of the costs of a divided society. We must meet the challenge of re-balancing and modernising our local economy."


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