Dr Stephen Farry MLA stated: “I welcome the comments from Peter Robinson and the DUP’s contribution to the debate on how Northern Ireland deals with the current extreme financial pressures.
“With public sector pay amounting to half of the overall budget, it is an area that must be addressed by the Executive. It is important that the measures taken in this regard are fair, relate to the position of the low-paid and maximise job retention. Public sector workers carry important spending power into the rest of the economy. The best way forward is for the public sector trade unions to negotiate with the Executive on what would be the optimal way forward.
“The DUP’s suggestions on the Regional Rate are long overdue. Alliance has long criticised what we have described as cheap populism from the Executive. The freeze in the regional rate in the past was in real terms a cut that was not merited in the then prevailing economic circumstances and cost the Executive much needed revenue. If the Executive had inflation level rises over the past three years, the overall revenue position would be today around £50m better. The roof was not repaired when the sun was shining.
“I am disappointed that the DUP continue to rule out water charges. Their explanation seems to be that due to expected opposition from others in the Executive, there is no point in pushing the matter. Instead, Alliance believes that positive leadership is needed on a measure that could raise £200m a year, and be consistent with social justice and helping the most vulnerable in society.
“There are also some other key issues that the DUP have not addressed including beginning to address the costs of a divided society and the potential for savings from shared services on a north-south basis.
“Alliance will be publishing our own proposals later this week.”