Judith Cochrane MLA said: “This Budget is not the balanced budget that the Stormont House Agreement called for. It does little to make our public finances more sustainable.
“The Alliance Ministers opposed the budget at Executive – but unlike other Parties who voiced their opposition; our reasons go much wider than the direct impact on Departments run by our own Ministers. We believe Northern Ireland deserves a more strategic, more innovative and more radical approach.
“We know there are inefficiencies in our health and education provision – yet this budget does not challenge these inefficiencies – rather the large degree of protection to those budgets creates less incentive for reform. We want to make sure that as much money as possible in health and education is spent on patients and pupils rather than administration.
“It is a budget that will leave us in exactly the same position this time next year- hardly moving Northern Ireland forward.
“Alliance would have done several things differently, such as removing the money from the Social Investment Fund which is duplicating services provided by other Departments. We would also have halted the relocation of DARD to Ballykelly. At a time of limited public resources, the costs of this project should be redirected to frontline services.
“Alliance would also have included a commitment to remove certain inappropriate populist subsidies. Free prescriptions for those who can afford to pay and free bus passes for those who haven’t yet retired are simply not sustainable. And only by considering these options can we as a devolved administration show we are taking some real responsibility in managing the budgetary challenges.
“I know that the Finance Minister has said that he is proud that we continue to have the lowest household taxes in the UK – but would he not be more proud if our public services were so efficiently run that in keeping the taxes low, we didn’t have to cut services to do it?”