Dickson raises transport and water service funding during budget debate

Alliance Regional Development Stewart Dickson MLA has highlighted financial issues in the Regional Development budget during the debate in the Assembly on the Budget Bill. Stewart raised the lack of funding for public transport and the failure to consider alternative funding of the water service.

Stewart Dickson MLA said: “When the DRD Committee scrutinised the draft Programme for Government, we were told that in the budget figures presented at that time, bus replacement funding was minimal – so minimal in fact that the funding allocated in the 2013 and 2014 financial years would only pay for half a bus.

“Why do we make such small allocations to public transport when formulating the initial budget, leaving the replacement of buses dependent on whether other Departments spend all of the money allocated to them?

“We are still missing the targets for investment in public transport set out in DRD policy documents. Why state in policy documents that we should have a 65:35 balance between roads and public transport investment and continue to allocate less than 20% to the latter year after year?

“We have to approach our finances with maturity. And we cannot afford to keep diverting hundreds of millions of pounds from other essential services because some do not want to make difficult decisions about the future governance and financing of our water system.

“I cannot honestly tell my constituents that as budget year by budget year goes by, that the current water arrangement is in their best interest. Not when about £280m a year is being taken out of our hospitals and schools to pay for it.

“We need to address the water issue urgently and put a system in place that is fair and protects our most vulnerable, not one that drains resources from the services on which they most depend. We need to at least start by having an honest, open and detailed debate.

“In the economic circumstances we face, it is particularly important that all spending is extensively scrutinised and can be wholly justified. This is not happening when it comes to funding our water service and infrastructure.”


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