The East Belfast MLA was speaking as she supported the Budget Bill in the Assembly on Monday, issuing a stark warning that while passing the budget could buy some breathing space, the process could go adrift for months if the deeper structural problems and current financial deadlock caused by the SDLP, Sinn Fein and Green Party is not addressed.
Judith Cochrane MLA said: “Alliance supports the budget as the only option to give Northern Ireland a chance of pulling itself out of the deepening financial black hole. And we do this as others continue to act irresponsibly, showing absolutely no desire to find solutions.
“And while we continue to drift, with public services being stripped away, the SDLP, Sinn Fein and the Green Party are content to remove the ladder rung by rung from the most deprived, taking away any opportunities for a secure future.
“There are already early signs of significant cuts, with early years education in jeopardy – despite its proven benefit – as core school budgets are protected, and many employment and training opportunities also under threat as key initiatives are placed on enforced hold due to financial restraints.
“It’s the same across all departments, with health promotion and awareness campaigns around issues including smoking and alcohol set to cease and lets not rule out the worrying possibility that someone could be seriously hurt, or worse, on our roads this summer as grass verges continue to grow wild.
“The failure of other Ministers to balance their departments – coupled with welfare reform pressures – has left budgets unstable and important decisions delayed, meaning only one outcome – the vulnerable will suffer serious hardship.
“Only Alliance has been consistently leading, standing up for everyone with real, tangible ideas around possible savings and revenue raising – showing a responsibility and maturity lacking from the other parties.”