Dr Stephen Farry MLA stated: “Alliance accepts that the Executive’s Budget for 2010-11 has been knocked off course by external events such as unexpected pressures and problems with land sales, many of which are linked to the economic recession. The real challenge is how the Executive responds in balancing its financial books.
“This Budget Review will inevitably result in cuts to public service and a deterioration in the level of service provided to the people of Northern Ireland. Furthermore, it is likely that there will be actual cuts to the Block Grant from the 2011-12 Financial Year onwards, as a result of decisions by the next UK Government.
“We have three main criticisms of what has been proposed by the Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson. First, the Executive continues to resist addressing the structural problems in Northern Ireland’s finances. The most notable is the cost of managing a divided society and tackling duplication in service delivery. The roof has not been fixed while the sun was shining in the better economic circumstances several years ago.
“Second, the Finance Minister has talked of a choice between increasing revenue and spending cuts as means to address the deficit. In practice, it must be a balance between the two. All other governments around the world accept this reality including all three of the main parties at Westminster. Our Executive continues to engage in cheap populism and refuses to countenance any increases of the regional rate to address some of the financial problems, even just at the level of inflation.. There are major opportunity costs arising from this.
“Third, the balance of what is proposed will have a differential impact on the less affluent and more vulnerable sections of our society. Regional rates and any water charges will be related to ability to pay, even on the crude measure of property values. Furthermore, not everyone pays these charges. By contrast, there are many people who depend on quality public services, from the health service to the gritting of the roads.
“Finally, we must also be mindful of lost opportunities to accelerate our recovery from recession and rebalance our local economy. Unless we address our fundamental economic weaknesses, we are always going to be in a situation of financial dependency.”