Stephen Farry stated: “Alliance takes the current financial situation very seriously. We are determined to act in a responsible manner. Our assessments are realistic, and we have been honest regarding the tough decisions ahead. The Alliance paper highlights a number of key opportunities some of which have yet to be addressed or are at best under-explored which would utilise ever scarce resources much more efficiently.
“While we oppose the level of cuts that are being imposed on the Block Grant, we can not evade the responsibilities of the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly to agree a local budget within the set parameters.
“Prevarication will only lead to bad decisions and the waste of increasingly scarce resources. Furthermore, a failure to strike a budget could lead to a budget being imposed. This would inevitably be much less sensitive to local needs than anything agreed by locally accountable elected representatives.
“The Alliance Paper is detailed in its analysis and proposals, running to almost 10,000 words. Alliance aims include: rebalancing and restructuring the Northern Ireland economy; modernising public services; maximising employment across the public and private sectors; and protecting the most vulnerable in our society. Major opportunities come from both creating a shared future through tackling the wasted resources tied up in managing a divided society and from wider consideration of shared services on a north-south basis.
“For Alliance, the budget-setting process should be about more than just addressing cuts arising from the Comprehensive Spending Review. It is not about simply reducing existing spending to manage in a new context. The Executive should consider additional and alternative spending commitments while reviewing existing policies and programmes to ensure that resources are used most efficiently and effectively, and opportunities under the ‘invest to save’ approach. Ultimately, it should be about setting spending priorities for next four years in line with a Programme for Government.”
Note for Editors:
Ten Key Points in Alliance Proposals
Alliance maintains that there are significant savings to be found through addressing the costs and distortions from managing a divided society and building a shared future. The development of shared education offers the greatest opportunities in this regard.
Alliance argues that, independent of political consideration, the opportunities for shared services on a north-south basis should be fully explored in order to realise economies of scale and more efficient service delivery.
Alliance advocates an increased emphasis by departments on prevention and early intervention. This work can often address financial cost pressures faced by government. The voluntary and community sector are often best placed to achieve such outcomes.
Alliance has consistently supported the reform of Northern Ireland’s political institutions for democratic and governance reasons. There are also clear savings to be found from cutting Departments to 8 and the number of MLAs to 75.
Alliance recognises that costs related to public sector pay will have to be addressed within any forthcoming budget. All options must be on the table, but the preference must be to maximise the retention of jobs and to give most protection to lower paid staff. Decisions are best influenced through discussions and consensus between the Executive and public sector trade unions.
Alliance recognises that considerable protection should be given to the health budget, but cautions against full protection given the consequences for other Departments and economic drivers, and also the continued potential for efficiencies in the health sector that could otherwise go untapped.
Alliance is prepared to support the introduction of Water Charges. Continued deferral costs the Block Grant around £200m every year. Water Charges must be linked to ability to pay, and would therefore be progressive. This would avoid even deeper cuts in public services, helping the most vulnerable that disproportionately depend upon them. Alliance also accepts the need for an inflation rise in the level of the domestic regional rate and the removal of rates-capping.
Alliance argues that the Executive should continue to invest in economic recovery and transformation, and highlights the Green New Deal as an immediate and labour intensive opportunity, that also helps address energy efficiency and climate change.
Alliance stresses the importance of the Northern Ireland Assembly obtaining the ability to lower the rate of corporation tax. This could best facilitate a step change in the Northern Ireland economy. We acknowledge that the cost of lost revenue in the short-term, an estimated £200m, may have to be found during the course of the 2011-2015 Budget.
Alliance advocates that there is a significant transfer from current expenditure to the capital budget, in response to the considerable shortfall in the latter respect. This is important in order to continue investment in the infrastructure of the future, and to assist private sector employment particularly in the construction sector. This transfer could amount to well in excess of £100m per annum.
The full paper can be accessed at: