Stephen Farry stated:
“The Finance Minister is wrong to imply that the introduction of free personal care for the elderly in Northern Ireland would see a rates hike of between 25% and 30%.
“This would only be the case if no other changes were made in public spending. In putting forward the amendment to make a budgetary commitment to provide free personal care, Alliance stressed that this should be conducted within the context of the Comprehensive Spending Review, and can be met within the current level of resources available to the Assembly.
“The main point of a devolved Assembly is that it allows locally-elected representatives to alter budgetary priorities in line with the views of the people of Northern Ireland. The same simplistic remark regarding a rates hike could be made about any new proposed spending.
“The Comprehensive Spending Review provides the opportunity to reassess spending. As needs change and new demands emerge right across government, budgets will have to be altered. Scotland addressed free personal care within their own budgetary constraints.
“Alliance has been consistent in identifying potential reforms that could release funds to be reinvested in quality public services for the whole community. Around £1 billion is wasted every year in managing a divided society. Over time, these funds must be recovered so that they can be reinvested in a much more productive way.”