“Beyond comprehension” Executive money unallocated while cost of living rise continues, says Dickson

Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson has said it is “beyond comprehension” Executive money unallocated while a rise in the cost of living happens,

Mr Dickson was speaking after the Finance Minister gave a Budget update to the Assembly yesterday (Tuesday). He revealed if the Executive was still in place, there would be an additional £300 million in funds to allocate to ease pressures in various Departments.

The Alliance Economy spokesperson said the Economy Minister had not done enough to help some groups affected financially.

“The Finance Minister mentioned skills funding, electricity bill discounts, and match-funding for community groups traditionally benefiting from the European Social Fund,” he said.

“As many as 17,000 people across Northern Ireland rely on these community groups, but as things currently stand, no funding is in place from April 1. Consequently, crucial services for the most vulnerable in society are at risk of collapse.

“The Economy Minister has the authority to prioritise these community groups, who are only in need of match-funding because of the DUP-backed Brexit, which meant they lost out on European Social Funding in the first place. However, the Economy Minister has not chosen to prioritise these groups, and has not yet accepted an offer from the Finance Minister for additional funding to be made available.

“The choice between heating and eating is too well known for many people living in Northern Ireland battling fuel poverty. That this £150 million will sit idle while people continue to struggle, is beyond comprehension.

“The Finance Minister explained in no uncertain terms that public services in Northern Ireland will operate on an emergency basis, without the benefits of long-term planning or additional resources, until such time as the Executive is re-established.

“The DUP has made this a reality, and I for one have had enough.”