Stewart Dickson MLA said: “There is a looming crisis as our public services face cuts of hundreds of millions of pounds due to the failure to implement welfare reform.
“I share many of the concerns about the changes to welfare implemented by the UK Government, and that is why my Party opposed them at Westminster. However, the UK Government is not prepared to give us special status or privilege in these matters, beyond those concessions that have already been negotiated, and is unlikely to do so in the future.
“Blocking the Bill demonstrates not just political immaturity but also a reckless attitude to our public finances. We have been fined £5m a month since January, which will rise to £10m a month in the next financial year. However, the Finance Minister has outlined that every Department may be facing a 1.5% cut in the next Monitoring Round, which will have a profound effect on the delivery of services.
“Those who oppose the progression of the Welfare Reform Bill, far from helping the most vulnerable in our society, are cutting their ability to escape from poverty. The reality is that the financial penalties affect frontline health services, education and skills training – all key vehicles for overcoming and avoiding hardship.”