Stewart Dickson MLA said: “The place to have opposed welfare reform was at Westminster, and that is what we in Alliance did, unlike Sinn Fein. While they may argue that they don’t take their seats, they have a greater duty to show responsibility and leadership by working for the well-being of their constituents, who were clearly put second to ideology.
“I would ask those parties who continue to block these reforms – where are their detailed alternative proposals? Where is their master plan for getting round the huge financial dependency on transfer payments from Westminster? I certainly haven’t seen it. I suspect that is because there is no plan, other than to continue to run from reality. They have no meaningful plans, no proposals, no way forward.
“There is an existing package of concessions that is far superior to what is being implemented in the rest of the UK. If we move forward with these proposals, we can avoid the £87million of penalties and then look at what additional measures we may be able to take to mitigate the most negative elements of welfare reform.
“Not addressing the issue further hits the poor and most vulnerable in society. £87million of cuts will surely have a negative impact on the provision of health services, education, child poverty interventions, up-skilling, employment schemes and job creation. All of these would help people to escape from welfare dependency, improve life outcomes and create opportunities. Rather than handing money back to the Treasury in fines, we could be using it to invest further in these areas.”