Budget clarity now urgent, says Farry

Alliance Deputy Leader Stephen Farry MLA has pressed the Secretary of State to provide clarity on budget allocations urgently, to allow Departments to plan ahead.

The North Down MLA said the ongoing absence of an Executive meant a prompt decision was vital to facilitate scope for the Departments and agencies to maximise the potential for scarce resources to be spent efficiently and effectively.

“We are facing an ever-growing financial crisis, with major implications for public services and the economy. Regrettably, this reality is a secondary concern to the issues at the heart of the deadlock between the DUP and Sinn Féin, preventing the restoration of devolution.

“Every day that goes by means less time for Departments and agencies to plan ahead. With scarce resources available, it is important every opportunity to spend what is available efficiently and effectively is taken.

“If there are no swift decisions, more and more resources will in effect be wasted, and in the community and voluntary sector that provides many services on behalf of government, staff will inevitably be placed on protective notice.

“There is some complacency about us stumbling along and catching up with financial decisions in due course. Formal budget legislation can follow, but a political authority does need to confirm the actual budget allocations as a matter of urgency.

“If the Secretary of State is forced to assume this responsibility, Alliance would encourage her to take a more strategic approach than what has been offered in the Civil Service Budget Outlook document. It does not reflect a strategic approach but a rolling forward of previous assumptions and does not relate to the draft Programme for Government. Indeed, the suggestion of two years ring-fencing of education will both protect massive inefficiency and effectiveness and starve other areas of resources.

“The looming cuts will bring massive impact on colleges, universities, training programmes, inward investment prospects, the arts sector, road maintenance and street lighting, rural transport, rural support and the criminal justice system to name just a few.”

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