Stephen Farry stated:
“Last week’s Budget has brought mixed news for Northern Ireland . Our local share of the efficiency savings may only amount to £122 over the next few years, but looming into the future lies Northern Ireland’s share of at least £9bn of further cuts, and this assumes that the Chancellor has got his figures right. Many are sceptical in this regard.
“In the short-term, Northern Ireland has a small windfall in the form of Barnett consequentials reflecting some additional spending in Britian, amounting to around £50m during this financial year and £66m next year.
“This additional spending in Britain has two purposes, to further stimulate the economy and to help prepare for recovery. There is an obligation on our Executive to follow suit. Devolution does mean that the Northern Ireland has to slavishly mirror what is happening elsewhere, but our Executive does have the responsibility to help our own economy.
“The fresh investments by the UK Government in employment and training measures, and energy efficiency and support for renewable energy should point us in the right direction. We must expect our Executive to come forward with its own plans in the very near future in these or other areas.
“The real tragedy will lie if this Executive’s squanders this opportunity through using the financial windfall to offset the efficiency savings, and avoid taking difficult but necessary decisions. Northern Ireland can no longer afford populism over prudence. We can no longer sustain redirecting a £1bn every year to manage a divided society. The challenge for the Executive is now to invest in recovery.”